Ubuntu religious editions controversy: it’s all in the name, folks…

Ubuntu names can be tricky.

I’ve heard it proposed that the various official flavors of Ubuntu be retitled from their current names of Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Edubuntu to the possible new names Ubuntu Gnome, Ubuntu KDE, Ubuntu Xfce, and Ubuntu Education Edition, respectively (or some variations thereof). As it stands now, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Edubuntu might sound cool, but their names can confuse new users, who sometimes assume the four are separate Linux distros instead of the same Linux distro with four different sets of default packages and artwork.

Then you have projects like Linux Mint and Mepis, which use Ubuntu as a base but don’t acknowledge that association through the distro name itself. There’s not that much confusion in these cases, but some could argue that it might make sense to have some kind of Ubuntu reference to “give credit where credit is due,” even though Ubuntu’s own name doesn’t reference Debian directly.

The most problematic names seem to be the religious editions—so far they are Ubuntu Christian Edition, Ubuntu Muslim Edition, and Ubuntu Satanic Edition, with the possible addition of a Jewish version soon. The names spark controversy because their use of the words Ubuntu and Edition makes it easy for users to assume that there is some kind of official Ubuntu or Canonical endorsement of these religious offshoots. I am actually a little troubled that Ubuntu gave permission to Jereme (whose Ubuntu Forums handle is mhancoc7) to use the name Ubuntu Christian Edition. An official endorsement blurs the line between “church” and “state” in the Ubuntu world, and that makes a lot of Ubuntu users (particularly non-religious ones, but even some religious ones too) nervous. On the other hand, though, if Ubuntu Christian Edition were to be called Disciple Linux or Agape Linux, people would be under the false impression that the release was an entirely new distro and not just a remastered Ubuntu with different artwork and different default programs (the same confusion people currently have about Xubuntu and Kubuntu, which both even have the letters buntu in them), and that, for some reason, also makes some people upset—those who don’t think a remaster of the .ISO “warrants” the “release” of a new “distro.”

I’m not one of those naysayers who think the religious editions should stop. You can’t stop forking, modification, and/or re-release in open source—that would kind of defeat the purpose. You want to stop things, make those things proprietary, not open source. But if people are going to be confused by the name of a release, I’d prefer they think a religious “distro” is its own thing rather than thinking that Ubuntu is starting to officially endorse certain religions.


  1. I’ve seen issues being raised about the Anarchist FAQ as well as various “Bible applications” being included in Debian (I’m sure the Ubuntu community has gone through similar discussions). I don’t really want to get involved because I support the free flow of information. It’s up to each person to decide what they want to install.

    I personally have the Anarchist FAQ installed but not bible-kjv. I know other people who have done exactly the opposite. In both cases they are expressions of our individual freedom to install what we like. Now *that* is something that I support.

  2. Under the new Ubuntu trademark policy, those wouldn’t be called editions. They’d have to be called ‘remixes’, which sounds a bit less official to me.

    Lorenzo: the controversy isn’t that the apps are in the repos (I don’t mind having packages I’m not going to use, choice is good), but whether a CD which installs Ubuntu with those packages by default can be called “Ubuntu so-and-so Edition”

  3. As I see it, the various religion based versions should simply be labelled “Ubuntu Linux with additional packages for religion x” as this is what they are, with nothing spectacularly different to define them as a seperate edition of the distro.

  4. Wow John, that name really rolls off the tounge. What distro do you use? I use Ubuntu Linux with Aditional Packages for Religion X.

    I’m with the masses of people. When I first started looking into Linux, I took one of the distro quizes to help me pick. It suggested Kubuntu. I had no idea that Ubuntu existed, I thought Kubuntu “just was,” like Arch, Gentoo, etc. When I first found out about Ubuntu, it was obvious to me the two were related, but not how. The current system is unclear. I don’t know that this really needs addressed, honestly; calling it Ubuntu KDE edition really won’t be any more clear to a Linux neophyte, as the idea of having different window managers is foreign anyway. I think some ammount of confusion is unavoidable, and the current setup give them charm. They’re catchy.

    I do feel like Ubuntu CE is poorly named, however. It fits a very common naming convention and does make it sound like an endorsed release. I think if it were even as simple as Christian Edition Ubuntu, it wouldn’t sound as “endorsed.” If it were me, I would not have given my blessing on it; I don’t want to deal with all the religious folks in the world a) wanting the same or b) complaining about endorsing one.

    Of course that’s the beauty of private enterprise, you can do/endorse what you want. If you want to give a CE edition the okay, but the Buddhist edition a no-go, nobody can sue you for discriminiation, it’s yours to do with as you please. But for me, I’d have just stayed away as a practical business move.

  5. I am one of those religious people (Christian Quaker) who use Linux because of moral objections to capitalism and a love of mutualism – so I have the Bible KJV and the Anarchism FAQ installed. However, I have to say I am a bit bothered by the use of religions in the name of ubuntu distros – as has been said, it sounds like an endorsement. It is also seems opposite to the open source ethos that goes against this kind of narrow, ghetto-isation, some forms of religion are so keen on creating.

  6. Being rather new to Ubuntu (very little linux exp in general.) I was rather confused when I only had Gnome and no XFce & KDE. I had a bad spyware problem so I grabbed the first version I saw while using my friends connection. Being a new user it would have been nice to know what GUI I was getting right out of the box, but then again the info was there, I just didn’t have the time to look it up.

    Although one day, and I have my XFce the way I like it, learning Gnome rather well (decided to hold off on the KDE)

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