Y’know, there are almost as many competing Linux application formats as there are distributions.
But today that ends — or so hopes Canonical and a band of well-known ISVs and hardware companies, including Samsung, Dell, Mozilla and The Document Foundation.
‘A Snap app contains both binary and any dependencies’ – learn more
Snap packages, or ‘Snaps’, made their desktop debut in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. The Linux community response since then has been ‘unexpected’, Shuttleworth says. Developers from other Linux distributions have rallied around the format, porting it to run on other desktops and distributions.
Yes, you read that right: Snaps can run on other Linux distributions, including Arch, Fedora, Linux Mint, CentOS and Gentoo.
This wide-ranging support could see Snap apps become the de-facto Linux app package format. Imagine it: a single binary package that will work perfectly, predictably and securely on any Linux desktop, server, cloud or device regardless of which flavour of Linux it runs.
‘ Snaps can run on other Linux distributions like Arch, Gentoo, and Fedora’
“Linux fragmentation has always been an issue,” Mark Shuttleworth noted in a press call held earlier today, adding that Ubuntu’s huge popularity has seen independent software vendors (ISVs) choose to support Ubuntu at the expense of other Linux distributions.
Snaps change that.
“Snaps bring […] apps to every Linux desktop, server, device or cloud machine, giving users freedom to choose any Linux distribution while retaining access to the best apps.”
He wryly concluded: “I’m delighted to be part of [easing] that fragmentation …even though it gives ISVs and hardware companies a reason to not use Ubuntu!”.
Shared App Ecosystem
The move creates a shared app ecosystem which is, potentially the long-sought answer to the issue of fragmentation across Linux distributions.
‘Snaps are easier to maintain, package and distribute’
“We hope today’s announcement will be surprising because it’s not about Ubuntu,” Shuttleworth said in a press calls held earlier today.
“Snappy apps will simplify software delivery across the complex multi-distribution landscape”.
This was backed up by Boudewijn Rempt, project lead at the Krita Foundation who said: “Maintaining .deb packages in a private repository was complex and time consuming, snaps are much easier to maintain, package and distribute. Putting the snap in the store was particularly simple, this is the most streamlined app store I have published software in.”
What About App Image, Flatpak, Orbital Apps, Etc?
App Image has been around for a while. ‘It delivers a single binary but it doesn’t make any attempt to do it in a secure way; it doesn’t have the upgrade semantics that Snaps were designed to introduce,’ Shuttleworth explains.
Flatpak is the new name for GNOME’s XDG-App initiative, though ‘…95% of the commits come from one Red Hat employee,’ Shuttleworth cheekily noted. ‘We would be delighted if they’d work with us.”
Orbital Apps are primarily focused on portability and do not offer a transactional update model.
Android and Windows
Snaps on Android is a “great idea”, Shuttleworth replied when asked if it was possible they could run on Android.
“If OpenWRT [can get Snaps working in less than a week]… i’d be surprised if Android couldn’t come up with similar work.”
As for running Snaps on Windows 10? “It’s absolutely plausible” Shuttleworth said.
“Snaps are using modern features in the Linux kernel to do security confinement, set up file system access, etc, and all of that involves using modern mechanisms in the kernel. And Canonical lead a lot of [this work]. It’ll take a while for Microsoft to [get to hook in to it].”
Learn More About Snaps
A shiny new website where you can learn more about getting involved with Snappy is now live on the interwebs.