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revenue sharing agreement with DuckDuckGo

Dear Project Members,
  thanks to the introductions by Mike Hommey, as Iceweasel maintainer,
I've been approached by a representative of the DuckDuckGo (DDG) search
engine [1] about a revenue sharing agreement among them and the Debian

[1] https://duckduckgo.com/

What they propose is:

- donating to Debian 25% of the income they make from inbound traffic
  that originates from Debian users if DDG is a search engine option in
  a web browser

- donating to Debian 50% of the same income if DDG is the default search

I've clarified to them that the choice of which search engine options
are available in web browsers we ship, as well as the choice of which
one is the default, are purely based on technical merit and won't be
affected by us entering in such an agreement (if we do). As a matter of
fact, DDG has been already available as a search option in Iceweasel
since quite a while; not sure about other browsers in Debian.

DDG will earmark traffic originating for Debian, for browsers who want
to do so, by using the search URL
https://duckduckgo.com/?q={{search}}&t=debian . Mike, with his
maintainer hat on, is fine with using such a search string in
Iceweasel. Other browsers, if the respective maintainers want to, might
end up doing the same.

The folks at DuckDuckGo periodically publish traffic reports [2] and ask
projects that enter in revenue sharing agreements with them to
periodically invoice DDG to collect their shares of revenues. The
company claims policies of regular donations to FOSS projects [3] and of
privacy consciousness [4]. Other FOSS distributions have already entered
in similar agreements with them (e.g. LinuxMint [5]).

[2] https://duckduckgo.com/traffic.html
[3] http://www.gabrielweinberg.com/blog/2012/03/duckduckgo-foss-donations-2011.html
[4] https://duckduckgo.com/privacy.html
[5] http://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=1884

The above are the facts. Based on them I'll need to take a decision of
whether we accept their proposal or not. At present, I'm very much
inclined to accept, for various reasons:

- Like it or not, DDG makes money out of web traffic that originates
  from Debian and they can already distinguish it from other traffic in
  many ways. If they want to share part of it with Debian, due to their
  policy of donating to FOSS projects, that's fine with me. We can put
  into good use the money for the Debian Project (stay tuned on this
  front, because guaranteeing sustainability of the ambitious plans by
  DSA [6] will require some fund-raising efforts).

  [6] https://lists.debian.org/debian-project/2012/03/msg00032.html

- The main risk I see in similar agreements is influencing our technical
  choices by the revenues. By making clear --- to them and to us ---
  that maintainers should be free to make technical decisions no matter
  the agreements, I'm relatively confident this risk is moot.
  Ultimately, trust our package maintainers not to care much about
  agreements and keep on doing their thing.

I welcome feedback on this matter,
Stefano Zacchiroli     zack@{upsilon.cc,pps.jussieu.fr,debian.org} . o .
Maître de conférences   ......   http://upsilon.cc/zack   ......   . . o
Debian Project Leader    .......   @zack on identi.ca   .......    o o o
« the first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club »

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