Ubuntu seems expensive to develop and maintain. Bandwidth, development, marketing, and maintenance all cost money, and since Ubuntu is free to download and use, I don't see who pays for it all.

I ask because I'm a happy Ubuntu user since 2006 and wonder how sustainable the project is.

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    More information can be found in this question: Ubuntu Finances and Future of Project Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 14:08
  • Marco: can you post this as an answer (thanks).
    – user2413
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 18:23
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    Q: "Who pays for Ubuntu?" A: "People who do not know where to get it for free."
    – Geoffrey
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 9:13
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    and many years later, Ubuntu brings paid "pro" versions... forcing it with not providing all security updates to free versions. As to original Q - open source is sometimes sustainable just by willing programmers/donors and is often supported with free hostings from hosting companies. (e.g. github)
    – jave.web
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 18:00

4 Answers 4


In short: Canonical funds it.

Where they get the money from is perhaps a better question. Well they sell services and support and they also have a fairly wealthy founder in the shape of Mark Shuttleworth.

Edit: As others have said, the latest report we have on finances is from 2008 when the company wasn't near breaking even but as I've just detailed in a comment, for things you believe in, breaking even isn't everything... Especially when you can afford for it to make a loss.

Of course the aim is for the project to become self-sufficient but at the moment the only return on investment comes through the channels I've already talked about. OEM services, B2B support, consumer level paid support. You have to respect that once Ubuntu hits critical mass gets real demand, the demand for professional services and complimentary products also increases.

If you want detailed financial information, I suggest you call Canonical. They'll either give you the numbers or tell you to stop being so nosey... But they're the only people that can tell you for certain.

Edit 2 (Re: "can't have it both ways"): - Utter nonsense! Of course you be benevolent and keep a vested interest in something. His belief and benevolence toward Ubuntu is there to help it fix Bug #1 which helps his commercial interests in Canonical.

There's no contract in kindness that stops you making money from it immediately or down the line.

  • Fair enough, but people don't usually spray there money around to the tune of millions of USD per year. If this is an investments, where are the returns expected to come from ? (see my comments to the other answers)
    – user2413
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 10:37
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    I think when you believe in something like open source as strongly as Mark does and you have as much money as Mark does (he got half a billion dollars from the sale of Thawte in 1999), pouring money into an organisation that stands a very good chance of making your dream come true makes a lot of sense.
    – Oli
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 12:54
  • Oli:> maybe it's an education thing. I don't really think something important should rely on the whims of a benevolent leader (i.e. say he decides he prefers his girlfriends after all).
    – user2413
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 17:14
  • Oli:> As for your second edit. From an ethical point of view (and that of a user in my opinion) the question is whether in the cases (no matter how rare or unforeseeable) when the two objective conflicts, which one will prevail ? Depending on the answer to the above an action is either interested or benevolent. Obviously it can't be both.
    – user2413
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 17:32
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    You forget to mention consumer-level services. I'm paying 99$/year for a Dropbox Pro account and I'll love to give my money to Canonical as soon as Ubuntu One... well.. kinda works. Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 17:59

The Ubuntu project is lead by a company called Canonical Ltd.

They make their money by providing enterprise software services, training, support, consultancy, and various other services directly related to Ubuntu.

You can read about the relationship between Canonical and Ubuntu.

  • Is ubuntu profitable ? Also, do they really need to fund an OS in order to providing enterprise software services, training, support, consultancy, and various other services ? It seems they could as easely do all those things on someone else's linux. I'm sorry, but your explanation is not satisfactory.
    – user2413
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 10:40
  • The most up to date information I can find is from an interview with Mark Shuttleworth in 2008 where he says they are "not close" to breaking even. Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 10:42
  • @kwak: Mark has had a long term involvement with the open source Linux community, so I'm sure part of the motivation behind Canonical and Ubuntu is probably to improve Linux and is not purely profit driven like some companies. Also, if you had to choose a company to provide tech support services, who would you choose; the company the created the OS or a 3rd party? The creators will be the default choice and you would expect them to be experts. Also, by controlling the OS, they can include links to their site in the help. Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 10:48
  • who would you choose; the company the created the OS or a 3rd party? well the creator is burdening its customer with a huge cost disadvantage (i.e. keeping the whole boat afloat) for which no direct benefits accrue to the individual tech support customer. It seems a bit naive to me to presume that company A is willing to support a product (thru canonical) that would also benefit company A's competitor.
    – user2413
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 11:03
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    @kwak: Yes MS is aiming for profitability in the long term, but it's possible to aim for profitability while maintaining community/benevolent goals, I was just suggesting that perhaps that is why he is supporting Ubuntu when perhaps a more pure business minded decision would be to offer support services for an existing distro. I'm not quite sure what answers you are after any more. You asked who pays for Ubuntu and the answer is Canonical. If you want to know about their business plan, you need to ask them. Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 11:53

They hope to make money in the long run like Redhat. Now they're working on distributing it and making it known.

  • Didn't rhat start to make money when they spun-off there consumer unit unto fedora ? Also Rhat's business model is very different from Ubuntu's in that they actually sell there software.
    – user2413
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 10:45
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    @kwak: Red Hat Enterprise Linux is almost entirely based on open source software. Like anyone, Red Hat is obliged to make this publicly available. CentOS is a project that takes all the RH source and rebuilds it without the official RH branding/icons. So the product is pretty much available for free. When buying RHEL it's really the support contract you are paying for. Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 10:54
  • @Simon P Stevens:> thanks, i did not know of CentOS. I will try to inform myself on rhat's business model (i was under the apparently wrong impression that it was very different from ubuntu).
    – user2413
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 11:12
  • @Simon P Stevens:> But again this argument (support) is rather weak. Many people are providing technical support for MicroSoft products without being MS employees. In the case of linux (when the source is open) there would appear to be even less incentives to turn to the distro owner for tech support.
    – user2413
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 11:28
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    Yes, there will be 3rd party support service suppliers, but I think the creator probably has some advantage in the market. I'm not saying it's an exclusive thing, just that I think controlling a distro probably has it's advantages, it's not just a cost with no benefit. Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 11:57

They might be getting their income through support:


And look at ubuntu advantage:


They have the following options and others as of this writing:

  • Landscape systems management tool
  • 24/7 telephone and online support portal
  • Canonical Livepatch Service
  • Access to the knowledge base
  • IP legal assurance
  • Ubuntu 12.04 Extended Security Maintenance (Standard tier and above)
  • Option of a dedicated Canonical support engineer

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