Ubuntu’s Latest Move: Goodbye Flatpak Support

In yet another highly controversial move, Canonical announced that future Ubuntu flavor editions would not support Flatpak by default.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, Ubuntu = Linux for human beings. Surely, however, in some other life, on some different planet, in some really far, far away galaxy. Canonical never stops to amaze, adding another bright shining star to their rich collection of unpopular decisions.

In short, starting with its upcoming April 20 release Ubuntu 23.04 “Lunar Lobster,” Ubuntu flavors will no longer include default support for Flatpak apps.

But let’s see what the official announcement says first, and then I’ll give my thoughts on it.

As part of our combined efforts, the Ubuntu flavors have made a joint decision to adjust some of the default packages on Ubuntu: Going forward, the Flatpak package as well as the packages to integrate Flatpak into the respective software center will no longer be installed by default in the next release due in April 2023, Lunar Lobster.

We think this will improve the out-of-the-box Ubuntu experience for new users while respecting how existing users personalize their own experiences. 

Let’s start with some necessary clarifications. First, by relying on and trying to force the internally developed Snap format on users, Ubuntu has never included Flatpak support in the default installation of its releases. So there are no surprises here. However, there are some surprises in the Ubuntu flavors segment, including Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu MATE, etc.

These are mainly independent distributions that make their own decisions about the software they include. However, according to the official statement, they unanimously decided that to improve the user experience, they needed to deprive their users of Flatpak support at the expense of Snap. And this is where things get ugly.

Because we’re not talking Flatpak vs. Snap here anymore, we’re not even talking about the fact that there will be no Flatpak support in the default installations. This is about much more than that. It’s about Canonical’s autocratic approach to everything with their brand, slapping people who believe in words like community, open source philosophy, and so on in the face – addendum – once again.

The lack of Flatpak support is not even something to comment on from a technical standpoint. Any user with even basic knowledge can add it in seconds with a single APT command. About Flatpak itself, in the case of Canonical, they are trying to make the river flow back, washing away the already plummeting number of devoted Ubuntu supporters.

Think that’s too bold a statement? Every “best Linux” list began with Ubuntu only a few years ago. But that is no longer the case these days. Other distros listen more to the voice of the community around them and not taking sharp turns, like Linux Mint and Fedora, for example, are now recommended as the best Linux desktop for new users.

And there is a reason for this, which is more ideological than technical: Ubuntu acts autocratically to its community, with no way to predict the next served surprise. But the phrases “autocracy,” “open source,” and “community” never could and never will be put together meaningfully in the same sentence.

Nearly 19 years ago, the Ubuntu wave changed the open-source world forever by attracting millions of followers to its cause. But unfortunately, it is now rapidly losing followers, albeit at the expense of many new business clients, which has been Canonical’s ultimate goal in recent years.

So, in yet another bold move, Ubuntu has spectacularly shot itself in the foot by forcing its opinion on all flavors to remove Flatpak support by default in its releases at the expense of Snap. Sometimes I even think that the desktop version of Ubuntu has become some annoying add-on for Canonical to their server edition, around which much of their business revolves and where all efforts are focused.

Anyway. Only time will tell where Canonical can get with its cannonade of unpopular decisions soon. However, all indications point out that we haven’t seen anything yet and that the best is yet to come.

Bobby Borisov

Bobby Borisov

Bobby, an editor-in-chief at Linuxiac, is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, he has worked as a Senior Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

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