A new ‘app store’ is expected to ship as part of Ubuntu 23.10 when it’s released in October — and it’ll debut with a notable change to DEB support.
Don’t get too excited; the new store is one you’ve heard about before (if you read this site, at least). It’s the community-created Flutter software hub I wrote about last year, which Ubuntu devs later expressed interest in making official — and thus did.
A couple of interesting — and potentially controversial — things planned for the first official incarnation of the tool were revealed recently so I figured I’d ferry along word.
Side note: if you tried the immutable Ubuntu desktop images currently in development you’ll have already had hands-on time with this new store as it’s included in those images by default.
A ‘Snap-First App Store’
Ubuntu is a Debian-based Linux distribution but it’s increasingly positioning snaps as the preferred way to ‘get’ software. The aim is, eventually, to default to a full-snap experience on the desktop.
With that plan in mind you won’t be mighty surprised (and if you are, welcome back to planet earth) to hear that showcasing DEB software will not be the primary aim of this new Ubuntu Software replacement.
Ubuntu’s Director of Engineering says the new hub will be a “snap-first app store” designed around snap metadata. If the same piece of software exists in the Ubuntu repository and the snap store the new store will only make it possible to install the snap version.
“It’s a non-goal to try and present debs and snaps as two options for the same app. Doing that is hard to get right and restricts design choices in other areas,” he writes.
“Deb support will land later because resources are always tight. Finally nothing here stops users from installing applications the old fashioned ways.”
This is a confusing statement.
At the time of writing, Ubuntu’s Flutter-based software app already lets you install DEB versions of software also available as a Snap. It also makes it possible to only search for DEB software, as well as update DEB software. So… surely those “tight resources” aren’t required?
Answers on on a postcard, please.
Secondly, we’re used to giving five star ratings to software in Ubuntu – but that’s changing. Instead of allow us to rate apps granularly based on 1 – 5 stars the new store will adopt the +1/-1 approach used by the games-distribution platform Steam.
The plus/minus scores will be used to compute “pseudo 5-star rating”. Potentially, further down the line, these scores will be used to calculate other labels, such as ‘best improved’ (if an app previously low-rated receives a big uptick in positive ratings).
We’ll likely learn even more about the new… App Store/Software Center/Snapplication Shack as development on Ubuntu 23.10 Mantic Minotaur continues.
Not that you need to wait until Ubuntu 23.10 to try the new store out. If you switch the snap-store app to the preview/edge channel using the command
sudo snap refresh snap-store --channel=preview/edge (and reboot) you can use it right now – just keep in mind it’s not stable.