An Open Proposal to Canonical

Firstly, this post is a personal one. I am not speaking on behalf of the Banshee community, any corporation, foundation, or my maintainer peers.

Since Banshee will be shipped in the upcoming release of Ubuntu, Canonical has decided it will take 75% of the Amazon MP3 referral revenue that, in the upstream/default codebase and configuration of Banshee, has historically been donated to the GNOME Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

25% will continue to flow to the GNOME Foundation. Of course this change will only affect those running Banshee as distributed by Canonical/Ubuntu. Other builds and distributions are unaffected.

Given that this decision appears to be final, I propose to Canonical my vision of the execution of this revenue sharing from a technical and accounting perspective:

  • Let Banshee handle the revenue sharing on the banshee.fm server. Currently, when launching the Amazon MP3 store in Banshee, the user is redirected through a proxy on banshee.fm. This proxy does a few important things:
    • Use IP address geo-location to redirect users to the most appropriate Amazon MP3 store (e.g. amazon.fr, amazon.com, etc).
    • Inject the appropriate Amazon MP3 referral code depending on the store chosen (and in this new case, also depending on whether the user is coming from a Canonical build).
    • Act as a level of indirection in case changes are made on Amazon’s side – if something happens, we can update our server and users remain unaffected as software updates do not need to be pushed.
    • Finally send the user to Amazon MP3.
  • With revenue sharing happening through the existing proxy, we can ensure that funds to the GNOME Foundation are delivered through the existing referral codes, and in a timely manner. We will be able to continue to provide public disclosure of referral revenue for GNOME.

    I am very concerned about accountability, and want to ensure that 25% is indeed making it to GNOME in a timely manner, consistent with what we already have in place.

Additionally, as part of Canonical’s decision to donate 25% of Banshee’s Amazon MP3 referral revenue to GNOME, they have also stated that 25% of referral revenue from their own UbuntuOne Music Store and from referral revenue from their builds of Rhythmbox will also be donated to the GNOME Foundation. I applaud them in this choice, especially around U1MS, as this is their own service and investment.

However, as partly implied by the Ubuntu News article on the matter, one thing that does concern me is that while this issue was discussed between Canonical and the Banshee maintainers many times, I am not aware of Canonical involving anyone in the actual Ubuntu community. I will be interested to see how we end up handling this matter technically, and what, if anything, Canonical does regarding packaging, patching, and involving the existing Ubuntu packagers and contributors.

Finally, I am excited about the new potential Banshee has in the near future to generate truly significant referral revenue for the GNOME Foundation as we near Banshee 2.0 and its availability on Windows and Mac OS X, where we will fully control its distribution as an upstream.

Changing Roles

About 6 years ago I started working for Novell to develop Banshee into much of what it has become today. I’m quite fond its evolution, but perhaps more proud of its community. As is likely obvious, I have not been too technically involved with Banshee over the past year. The last major thing I developed to production was the Amazon MP3 store integration and downloader, which was over the summer of 2010 (and is currently bringing in a respectable amount of revenue to the GNOME foundation!); yet Banshee has kept on growing – at a fantastic and exciting rate. This is all thanks to the numerous people actively and passionately involved in the project.

Over the last two years I found my duties leaning much more towards the Linux distribution side of things at Novell – specifically engineering of SUSE MeeGo this year, and SUSE Moblin the year before. My hands were in pretty much every aspect of the projects, and I found myself working closely with so many great people, many with whom I had not previously worked. This includes talent from both Novell and Intel.

Out of the MeeGo project arose an opportunity for Banshee as well. Working closely with the team at Intel, it became the default and integrated media player not just for our SUSE version, but also for Intel’s reference version of MeeGo for netbooks.

Recently I found myself faced with an opportunity to work with a new set of talented people on something fresh. Today was my last day at Novell, and next week I will be starting at Rdio, where I expect to take Banshee into yet another new direction. I’m excited about the possibilities ahead, but will save my thoughts for another time.

I’ve been a happy Rdio user for quite some time, and have been very inspired by its fresh and unique take on a few aspects of media playback and management. And while there’s much I’d like to do in Banshee that Rdio is already doing, there’s perhaps even more I’d like to see Rdio doing that Banshee does. It will be an exciting time to come, and I’m eager to jump in.

I intend to continue to be involved in Banshee as an application and community. I am looking forward to again spending more time in the project. Similarly, you won’t find me leaving the GNOME and openSUSE communities I’ve grown quite fond of over the years. Apologies for that!

As I write this I am headed to FOSDEM, and I am very much looking forward to seeing so many great people again, and I look forward to the times in the future where we will continue to meet, preferably over copious amounts of beer!


Miguel calls this the new "abock lolcat."
The only problem is that it’s a dog! But this is fine with me…