Open Source

Apple introduces Unity Scopes-like search and no one cries foul

Jack Wallen ponders the borrowing of Unity Scopes in OS X Yosemite and explains why he has disparate attitudes toward each.

Yosemite Scopes

This week, Apple announced the new OS X Yosemite, and Linux users across the Linux-verse stood up and proclaimed "Oooo, I'd like to lay my hands on the lily-livered swab is writ that forgery!" Why so up in arms? Because Apple has done what Apple does — riff on features from other platforms and claim they've recreated a wheel that will make your life far easier. What did they do this time? Let's chat.

One of the big features of OS X Yosemite is included in the Spotlight tool. For those who don't know, Spotlight is the OS X search tool that, up until Yosemite, searched the local drive. As of Yosemite, anyone who has touched the Ubuntu Unity Dash will notice something very similar to Scopes.

What are Scopes? If you open up the Unity Dash and do a search, the results will include local files and online results. In fact, Unity Scopes can search over 100 sources (users can configure what sources to use), which results in one of the single most powerful search tools on any desktop of any kind.

Apple has finally decided to add a Scopes-like feature into OS X (Figure A). When you press the [Command] + [Space] buttons, a new Spotlight box appears where you can search local and/or online results.

Figure A

Figure A

Ubuntu Unity Scopes compared to Yosemite searching.

This functionality isn't new or unique to Unity. GNOME Do did the same thing (although not nearly as well, nor to the extent of Scopes). But when OS X adds previews of the search results in the Spotlight box, things start to feel hauntingly similar to Unity's Dash search.

There's a HUGE difference between these two features. The difference isn't in functionality, features, look, feel, or overall experience. What then, is the big diff?

Acceptance.

When Ubuntu released Unity Scopes, a very large and very vocal group from the Linux community cried foul, that Scopes was an invasion of privacy, was insecure, and would probably steal their identity...

...maybe not that last bit. But there was plenty of backlash from the community (many of whom didn't even use Ubuntu).

How will the Apple community react when they start using the Scopes-like feature in Yosemite? They'll love it. They'll realize how convenient it is to be able to, from one location, search their local drive, Wikipedia, Amazon.com, and countless other sources. There won't be an outcry about privacy. Why? There are a lot of reasons, some positive, some negative. For instance:

  • Apple users aren't nearly as paranoid about security
  • Apple users think of the future, not the present or the past
  • Apple users want the most convenient and user-friendly experience possible

This isn't to say that they are right or wrong. One of the reasons the Linux platform is as secure as it is rests squarely on the shoulders of the paranoia in the Linux community. That's a huge plus. But this same paranoia causes some users to point the finger of "security breach" at undeserving features. It has yet to be proven that Scopes is a real risk to security. Sure, Scopes can track your search history, but so can every browser that isn't in incognito mode.

As someone who frequently uses Scopes, I've never understood the outcry for something that makes your life exponentially easier. And now, Apple is going to have a Scopes-like feature that will flourish and might well grow beyond Unity Scopes in functionality — simply because the users accept the feature with open arms. I've been using Linux for nearly two decades. I've fought hard to aid in the acceptance of the platform. There are times, however, when that fight seems to sometimes turn inward — when members of the community begin to fight against those who try to extend the reach of the Linux desktop to a forward-thinking, modern user base.

I'm not a fan of Apple products. I am, however, a fan of how Apple has managed to turn their product into something users want as much as they need. They've done this by making sure their product not only fits into the scope of today's computer usage — but by also borrowing other technology and elegantly folding into their platform. In the end, Apple looks like they've re-invented a wheel that had already been re-invented. The difference is that Apple also re-invented they way users want and need to use their desktop.

Ubuntu says, "The ability to search online sources from your desktop will make your life easier," and the Ubuntu-using masses cross their arms and cry foul. Apple says, "The ability to search online sources from your desktop will make your life easier," and the OS X-using masses hold their arms up and cheer.

Where's the disconnect?

What do you think? Is it time for a shift in attitude in either the Linux or OS X landscape? Should Linux users be less concerned with the security of features like Scopes, or should OS X users be more concerned? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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