Ubuntu flavours have agreed to stop using Flatpak as the default packaging system for their operating systems, opting for alternative package managers instead.
In a surprise move, Canonical announced that all the official Ubuntu flavours would not ship Flatpak support by default. The decision is taken in agreement with all the official Ubuntu flavours teams/maintainers. The change is planned from the April 2023 release of “Lunar Lobster” onwards which is due in a few weeks.
Ubuntu official flavours to stop installing Flatpak by default
Ubuntu-based official flavours (Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu and others) are moving away from Flatpak as their default packaging solution in favour of other options such as Snap and native deb formats. This has been done to “improve the out-of-the-box Ubuntu experience for new users while respecting how existing users personalize their own experiences”.
While the decision is backed by Canonical, considering better user experience, stopping fragmentation in the packaging ecosystem and giving users a stable choice for app offerings. Apparently, a few questions pop up.
Why now? Flatpak and Snap have been out there for years now. Flatpak is becoming more popular since it is actively developed and maintained as a packaging format with modern features being developed, such as “verified apps”, which is coming up. At the same time, Snap could not get much popular in desktop app deployment space due to its “slow start time”, controlled by Canonical’s closed server among other reasons.
Ubuntu itself never shipped Flatpak by default. But the flavours maintainers should have the freedom to choose their own offerings and innovation on top of the Ubuntu base. That’s the main reason for being a flavour other than a different desktop environment.
Difficulty for users
While you can always manually install Flatpak and configure Flathub, obviously, it might create some problems with users. I believe this announcement is a first step to completely stop Flatpak from installing in a way.
Remember the Firefox snap situation? To remove Firefox snap, you have to do horrible command line tweaks to get the deb version installed. Those are very complex for average Ubuntu users. Furthermore, some popular desktop applications release Flatpak immediately after a release. Snaps are sometimes not even available for many popular Linux desktop apps.
I believe in letting users decide which packaging format is easy and follow. Instead of pushing a decision, Canonical should improve Snap by itself by addressing its core problems, app availability and close-door nature. In addition, voting should have been done to get feedback from the community in collaboration with the flavour maintainers before pushing a decision for a community-contributed distro.
It never ends in a good way if we ever learn from history. That being said, this change affects from April 23, 2023, onwards when Ubuntu 23.04 Lunar Lobster releases.
And let me close this article with the motto of Ubuntu, which sounds strange after this move:
“Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning ‘humanity to others’. It is often described as reminding us that ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’. We bring the spirit of Ubuntu to the world of computers and software. The Ubuntu distribution represents the best of what the world’s software community has shared with the world.”about ubuntu
Newsbreak via Joey @ OMG! Ubuntu! and via discourse