Removing Online Accounts from Initial Setup 46

As part of the ongoing work to revitalise GNOME Online Accounts, it no longer uses an embedded webview for account authentication and instead uses the system web browser. This is both for desirable usability reasons – better to use your normal trusted web browser that may even already be logged into your online account than a random webview – and also because the providers of the online accounts in question very strongly prefer not to allow people to log in via an embedded webview for security/anti-phishing reasons.

However, by design, it is not possible to open the system web browser from the Initial Setup session. At a technical level, this is achieved by setting the handler for http(s) URLs to a dummy app that just runs /bin/true. At a conceptual level, this is because the Initial Setup session is meant to be a special-purpose kiosk, not an environment for general-purpose web browsing etc.

It may be technically possible to wire up a WebKitGTK-based browser window in Initial Setup (going against the wishes of service providers); or to run the system browser (either in a kiosk mode, or in a normal mode and accept that it breaks the kiosk model); but instead we propose to simply remove the Online Accounts integration from Initial Setup.

The downsides are that this means we will no longer be able to fetch the user’s real name from their online accounts(s), and in theory default to their avatar from an online account (though this has been broken for a while).

The upside is that it’s one less step standing between the user and a fully-featured session on their new computer; no confusing flows with web browser popovers; less code to maintain (we just need one interface for configuring online accounts, in Settings); and we have a possibly-uninformed belief that this functionality is not that widely used and will not be missed too much.

If there is a strong desire to guide new users to set up online accounts, this could be added to GNOME Tour.

Comments welcome, either here or in this ticket to track the removal of this feature:


It’s a bit sad to permanently lose pulling the avatar from an online account. I wonder if we should disable setting the avatar in initial setup, so people don’t invest time picking an avatar when the online accounts integration isn’t yet available.

Another thing we could consider is having some kind of hint in the shell’s calendar. Something to the effect of “set up online accounts to make online calendars visible here”.


I like that idea; I had a similar thought - I’ve noticed on both Samsung and Apple devices that they have slimmed down the mandatory onboarding flow, and then they prompt/cue people in to the other setup tasks either as they access functionality, or gently remind later until people either complete them or confirm they’re not interested.


Out of curiosity: are there other non-GOA providers of avatars that we could prompt people to set up in the onboarding flow? I know Gravatar has privacy issues but are there other similar ones that don’t? exists, but I doubt anybody is going to set up an account there just so they can set their avatar during initial setup instead of doing it post-install.

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