8 Discontinued Ubuntu Features and Products You May Have Missed (2023)

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Ubuntu has been around since 2004. During that time, Canonical has experimented with a number of Ubuntu-specific features and Ubuntu-related products. Some are still around, while others have faded with time.

Here are some nuggets of Ubuntu's past to tickle your nostalgia. Some no longer serve a purpose. Others may make you yearn for what could have been.

1. Free Live CDs in the Mail

Linux isn’t the easiest thing to get your hands on. First, you have to know what it is. Then you need to pick a distribution. Then you need to download an ISO file, burn this to a disk, and then boot your computer from this installation media.

Canonical sought to reduce this hurdle by mailing free Ubuntu CDs to anyone in the mail, all over the planet. All you had to cover was the cost of postage. It was a remarkable undertaking, and it was how many people experienced Linux for the first time.

Free CDs aren’t actually free, and eventually, this initiative went away following the release of Ubuntu 10.10. You can read about the end of the ShipIt program on Canonical's blog.

2. MeMenu

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In Ubuntu’s early days, the idea of integrating the internet more directly with our desktops was still relatively new and fresh. This was before the time of online accounts being required to sign in to devices or the rise of many desktop apps being glorified web apps.

MeMenu was a menu that allowed you to access your instant messaging accounts. Your name appeared in the top-right corner of the screen, with an icon beside it that indicated your status. You could set this as Available, Away, Busy, and the like.

This menu made its debut in Ubuntu 10.04 “Lucid Lynx.” Its last appearance was in Ubuntu 11.04, giving it a run of a year and a half.

3. Ubuntu One File Syncing and Music

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Ubuntu One was the name for Canonical’s limited suite of consumer-focused online services. The most popular was a file-syncing service very similar to Dropbox, except with the freedom to sync any folder on your computer (a feature Dropbox lacked at the time). You placed files in your designated folders, and they synced online and across devices.

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There was also the Ubuntu One Music Store, where you could buy music from 7digital to download or stream songs from the cloud to your device.

Ubuntu One technically still exists as a way to sign into various Canonical websites, such as Launchpad, with one account. But that primarily concerns developers. The file syncing and music portions that general Ubuntu users were more likely to see went away in 2014. This functionality appeared in Ubuntu 9.10 through 13.04.

4. Upstart

Upstart is an aspect of your computer that you would be forgiven for overlooking. Upstart is what’s known as an init daemon, which enables your operating system to perform various tasks while the computer is booting.

The traditional init processes Upstart replaced handled tasks one at a time and in a particular order, until the computer successfully booted up. Upstart was an asynchronous, event-based system that could handle modern PC usage with more grace, such as plugging in USB sticks and external hard drives.

Upstart first appeared in Ubuntu 6.10 and lasted until 16.04. After that, Canonical embraced systemd like most of the rest of the Linux world has done. You can now manage systemd on Ubuntu the same as on other distros.

Yet Ubuntu wasn’t alone in using Upstart. Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux both used it for a time. Google’s Chromium OS and ChromeOS have as well.

5. Ubuntu Touch

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Canonical launched Ubuntu Touch in 2011 as an effort to bring Ubuntu to devices with touchscreens. The experience features a dock along the left side of the screen, like on the Unity desktop, married to an app drawer and fullscreen apps akin to Android and iOS.

The vision was originally vast. Mark Shuttleworth wanted to see Ubuntu on everything from smartwatches to car head units. But the only devices that actually shipped Ubuntu Touch were a few smartphones and a tablet, all released in Europe. When the dream didn’t pan out, Canonical announced that it would end the project in 2017.


Fortunately, Ubuntu Touch isn’t dead. There was enough interest in the community to continue development without Canonical’s continued investment. UBports, a community that brings Ubuntu Touch support to non-official devices, became the new stewards of the project. You can install Ubuntu Touch on several phones, and it is arguably a more viable product now than it has ever been.

6. Unity 8

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Ubuntu debuted the Unity interface in 2011 with the release of Ubuntu 11.04. This was a big moment for Canonical. Unity marked a departure from the GNOME desktop environment into something more of its own. Yet Unity used a bunch of GNOME apps by default and in many ways felt like a GNOME-based product, even if it wasn’t.

Unity 8 was to be a ground-up redesign developed in-house at Canonical. The interface would bring consistency across Canonical’s desktop and mobile platforms. Apps, too, were to be convergent, feeling at home on desktops, tablets, and phones.

Unity 8 appeared as a tech preview in Ubuntu 16.10. Sadly, that’s as far as things got. Canonical pulled the plug with Ubuntu 18.04 and switched the desktop back to GNOME, where it has remained ever since. Unity 8 lives on as a UBports community project under a new name, Lomiri, but the maintainers already have their hands full keeping Ubuntu Touch alive.

7. Mir Display Server on Desktops

For many years, Wayland was thought of as the display server that might one day eventually be mature enough to replace the venerable X.org, which has served the Linux world for decades. These days, Wayland is largely the default.

But this was not a foregone conclusion. For a while, Canonical developed Mir as an alternative that would be the default display server on Ubuntu. But there was little support or enthusiasm for this outside of Canonical, and the effort fizzled out alongside Unity 8.

But that’s not to say that Mir died. It’s still a living project, one that Canonical supports. But its home is now on IoT devices. The Ubuntu desktop? It uses Wayland.

8. Ubuntu TV

Canonical announced Ubuntu TV at CES and would go on to show off an interface very similar to what the Ubuntu desktop looked like at the time. It was possible to dabble with the interface on your computer, but Ubuntu TV never shipped on a single television. The spirit of the project was similar to the work now on display in KDE Plasma Bigscreen.

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The Canonical Graveyard Is in Good Company

If you look up any large tech company, you will find initiatives that never took off or have faded with time. For one prominent example, search our website for the term “Google kills.” But be warned: you may be reminded of services you loved and only recently managed to forget about.

Many parts of Ubuntu haven’t stuck around, but at least Canonical was bold enough to try out new ideas.


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