In October 2004, a preview version of the first release of Ubuntu (nicknamed "Warty Warthog") included imagery, created specifically for Ubuntu, which included nude and semi-nude photographs of three models (two nude women and one man wearing pants). The imagery was not overtly sexual, but one of the images was of the three models embracing while naked (at least, from the waist up). The imagery became available as the default desktop art for backgrounds and login screens and was thus viewed by a large number of preview users. A few days later, following an extensive community debate, a meeting was held to decide how to respond, and the images were replaced with more abstract ones. Mark Shuttleworth acknowledged responsibility for the original decision to use the images.
The controversial images continued to be available for download from Ubuntu repositories for some time, as part of an optional collection of "calendar" images designed to be updated each month.
There are multiple concerns with the images, particularly when officially endorsed and shown to users without them opting-in, as these were. The feminist ones include:
- triggering body image issues in some viewers
- arguably creating a sexualized environment, depending on one's personal and cultural interpretation of nudity
- objectification of women for a male heterosexual audience (only the female models were presented fully nude)
A larger set of distributed images are available at Ubuntu Warty visual theme/Image archive
- ubuntu-users mailing list archive for October 2004: search for "erotic wallpaper" "Default Theme" and "Community response of new ubuntu artwork"
- Summary of the community meeting (Internet Archive)
- Unabridged transcript of the community meeting (Internet Archive)
- Announcement of decisions following the community meeting
- A gallery of the calendar images themselves