We get various distros like kubuntu/ubuntu/lubuntu/edu/etc... for free. We get critical updates constantly. We can download any programs we want from Ubuntu repos. Gee, I can't even imagine what kind of a CDN network you gotta have to support all this. Also, Ubuntu has a lot of people working for them: Ubuntu jobs

Can someone explain how this is possible financially?


7 Answers 7


Firstly a lot of people work on Ubuntu in their free time (many of them programming, but also those of here for instance answering people's questions). Also some people donate to Ubuntu.

However there is more to the story. Canonical Ltd. is a private company that created and continues to pay for Ubuntu. We know Canonical hadn't been making a profit, but Canonical was initially founded by multi-millionaire Mark Shuttleworth which meant it didn't have to focus on making money right away.

However Canonical is now looking towards to making Ubuntu profitable. (After all, they have 600+ employees to pay every month!) There are some indications this has been successful. Their key revenue streams offer services around Ubuntu:

  • Support services (mostly to business) alongside which they sell Landscape
  • Contracting services to businesses (for instance working with OEMs such as Dell, or helping Google with Chrome OS). As Ubuntu makes its way onto mobile phones and TVs then this will grow.
  • Ubuntu Software Centre's paid section (Canonical takes a cut of purchases)
  • The Canonical Store (selling physical Ubuntu branded items) - discontinued
  • Closed-source projects wishing to use Launchpad.net can purchase a license
  • Ubuntu One (online file storage and synchronization service) and Music Store (selling music from within Ubuntu) - discontinued.
  • Amazon referrals. When you search the Ubuntu Dash, you may see Amazon products (unless you have turned it off). Ubuntu takes a cut of these.[ref]

All of these are areas that Canonical hopes will grow.

  • 4
    I saw a report a year or two ago that Canonical support service revenues covered the cost of running Canonical.
    – BillThor
    Jan 16, 2011 at 6:10
  • 2
    @Bill Had not seen that before myself. I think this article (from two years ago) is probably what you're referring to.
    – 8128
    Jan 16, 2011 at 7:42
  • 1
    Not that article but one quite similar. I believe the article stated they had reached break even. The conclusion was that Ubuntu had reached a self sustaining level of income and was no longer dependent on Mark. With all the new services I expect some costs have gone up, and I hope revenue has followed.
    – BillThor
    Jan 16, 2011 at 8:00
  • 2
    I think this answer needs to be updated to include the Amazon referrals. Doesn't Canonical make a little bit on those? (as if anyone leaves that feature on anyway).
    – Seth
    Sep 25, 2014 at 20:13
  • Canonical is still not cash-flow positive and has actually never reported a year of earnings without more losses :( Apr 11, 2015 at 16:52

Let's not forget Canonical makes custom distributions of Ubuntu for corporate customers!


There's Landscape too - to manage multiple Ubuntu installations from one place.


my firefox has an ubuntu custom google search. if people are using that which is pretty similiar to regular google search then its making them money. I have it on some of my sites and it bring in the cash. i can't imagine what it would do for people as their major search box.

after all its firefox's biggest rev generator

  • how would that make them money?
    – 842Mono
    Apr 10, 2014 at 22:21
  • 2
    I don't actually know, but I heard that was why Linux Mint's search was default to Yahoo as Yahoo was paying them
    – Anake
    May 7, 2014 at 12:02
  • 3
    very late comment, but google recently donated 200 million dollars to mozilla so that they keep the default firefox homepage at google for the next 20 years!!! May 8, 2014 at 23:39
  • @MinaMichael it is very profitable because the statistics on what customers search on is valuable. It can be used for statistical purposes, sold to advertising companies or used by companies such as google, who is first and foremost an advertising company. Google, firefox, linux mint/yahoo, ubuntu/canonical et al, all want the information on what you search for
    – wired00
    May 20, 2014 at 3:48
  • Do you have a reference for this @James?
    – Tim
    Apr 10, 2015 at 9:53

They sell support contracts, mainly to corporate customers. You can also buy t-shirts and such to help support them.


Another aspect is in the servers for businesses

  • 3
    Could you expand this answer a little?
    – Tim
    Apr 10, 2015 at 9:53

I was wondering about this question since "if you are not paying for the product you are the product". The best answer seems to be that they are making money from Extended Security Maintenance (ESM) support (as explained also in this article). In summary, upgrading is a major expense for large companies who may instead opt to buy themselves time with extended support for the version of Ubuntu they are running. By releasing new versions quickly you create an 'upgrade pressure'. Clever, and fair enough.

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