Ubuntu Flavor Packaging Defaults

7 posts were split to a new topic: Flatpak is a missed opportunity

Discussion of Flatpaks vs Snaps, and opinions about competence and villains and design and control that have developed well beyond comments on post #1.

people who opt to using flatpaks do so precisely because they do want the most recent (stable) releases, which I suspect is a lot of users evidenced by the raise of flatpak popularity.

furthermore, thanks to the sandboxing flatpak apps generally work great out of the box. the picture you paint of users having a bad experience with unstable flatpaks is mostly made up. and even then, flatpak not being selected as the default source in the app store is already plenty to “guard” inexperienced users. if it was really about that, they could just display a little notice warning the user when selecting a flatpak source for the first time.

imho there is no need for Canonical to control anything here. there is absolutely nothing technical stopping their support staff from being able to say “sorry you’ll have to seek support from that flatpak’s maintainer, we can’t help you” and having them as an integrated option at the same time. although I don’t think this would happen anywhere as frequently as you make it out to.

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An app doesn’t have to have anything wrong with it for it to cause problems for technical supporters. It just has to have something different from what the supporters are used to.

To give an example, there’s nothing wrong with the code and functionality of a mainline Linux kernel. It works. It works as intended except for rarely encountered bugs, and it works on Ubuntu… usually, that is. But when the fateful day comes that a user tries to use some feature that is unique to the Ubuntu kernel and doesn’t exist in the mainline kernel, things will appear to have broken. And indeed, they will be broken, but not because any of the software involved is exhibiting a bug. This is why mainline Linux kernels aren’t supported on Ubuntu - only Ubuntu kernels are. We know what to expect from them.

A Flatpak doesn’t have to be at all deficient or buggy for problems to arise. It just has to be different. Maybe a button isn’t where it used to be in an earlier version of the software available from the deb archives. Doesn’t sound like it would be that big of a deal, but the conversation would probably go something like this:

<user> Hey, I installed AwesomeApp a bit ago, and for some reason the Randomize button isn’t there anymore. Any clue what’s wrong?
<support> Hang on just a sec…
* <support> is opening AwesomeApp to check
<support> It used to be under Tools -> RNG -> Randomize, right?
<user> Yeah, but it’s not there.
<support> I’m looking right at it.
<user> Well I’m not :stuck_out_tongue:
<support> Hmm, check your settings and see if randomization features got disabled somehow.
<user> OK, sec…
<user> hmm…
<user> it says it’s enabled.
<support> ???
<support> I’m not finding anything on this - AwesomeApp 1.2.3 doesn’t have any other features that would disable the RNG.
<user> I’m on AwesomeApp 2.0.0.
<support> Oh. That’s not in the Ubuntu repos.
<user> I downloaded it through the Discover Software Center on Kubuntu 23.04.
<support> Did you enable any third-party repos?
<user> No, though I did enable Flathub.
<support> Ah, that’s probably the problem them. Can you run dpkg-query -s awesomeapp and tell me what it says?
<user> dpkg-query: package ‘awesomeapp’ is not installed and no information is available
<user> What, are Flatpaks somehow excluded from help?
<support> That’s why. Flatpak apps aren’t supported here, since we have no control over what people upload to any Flatpak repo and don’t know what to expect from their software.
<user> That’s ridiculous. You guys put the feature for adding Flathub literally in the app store, and now you’re going to leave me hanging?
<support> We wouldn’t support a PPA either. Only apps in the Ubuntu repos and some apps in the Snap Store are supported, since those are what we’re good at supporting. We don’t support third party apps both for the sake of our users and for our own sakes.
<user> Then why on earth did you put the feature in the app store?
<support> I guess the people who did that thought it would be helpful? Idk, I wasn’t the one to make that decision.
<user> You guys really need to think these things through better. But thanks anyway.
<-- user has quit (Quit: Leaving.)
<support> Sigh. That’s the third person I’ve had to explain that to so far.

(To be clear, I don’t think the initial decision to add Flatpak support was a not-well-thought-out decision, this is just what I imagine a frustrated user would say, based on what I’ve seen said in the past.)

No bugs were involved. All that happened was that one button moved somewhere else in a newer version and that newer version got into Flathub. User frustrated, supporter frustrated, and unneeded time wasted. This is a somewhat shortened version of what might happen - in all likelihood, things wouldn’t be so simple and there would be a much longer debugging session involved.

On the other hand, with Flatpak not enabled by default, we might have a conversation more like this:

<user> Hey, I installed AwesomeApp through Flatpak, and I can’t seem to find the Randomize button. Anyone know where it went?
<support> Hmm, is there a reason the version of AwesomeApp in the Ubuntu repos isn’t sufficient? Flatpaks aren’t supported by Ubuntu since they’re third-party apps.
<user> I wanted to try out the new features in version 2.0.0. Not supported?
<support> We know what to expect from the versions of software in the Ubuntu repos. We usually don’t use Flatpak around here and so we’re not used to the versions of software and possible quirks it may have.
<user> Ah, that makes sense. OK, thanks for your help!
<support> I wasn’t that much help, but glad to at least try!
<user> Thanks :slight_smile:
<-- user as quit (Quit: Leaving.)

Much easier for both the user and the supporter.


(To be clear, I realize there are lots of other factors that may be involved in how long or painful a support session is, and that whether Flatpak is installed by default or not is only one factor. My point is that it’s a significant factor, significant enough that it’s worth it to not include it by default.)

I was going to edit this in but Discourse’s Slow Mode wouldn’t let me edit the post by the time I tried and it wouldn’t let me add this for an hour after posting :stuck_out_tongue: and then I forgot about it :smiley: but now it’s here.

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I think this is the main problem here, look what Zorin, elementary and others have achieve in enabling on demand “on click” flatpak support. telling the user that he needs command line to get software is against the first Ubuntu goals we had in 2004

This why the first think I do on my clients Ubuntu images is to remove snap-store and use gnome-software with flatpak support

What I intended to illustrate here is that all the user needs to do is install the packages to make this happen. If folks feel more comfortable with the command line they can use that path, but if you search for flatpak in the respective graphical software centers, you should equally continue to have the opportunity to install it in the same way you would any other software on your machine. The intention is not to make it harder to install these packages, just not to provide them in a default installation.


Hey @laney, I added an answer to this question to the FAQ. Let me know if this answers your question!


Which issues does this bring? I prefer Mint precisely because it has not snap on it.

Fantastic reply. Makes total sense.

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We are not 2018 anymore , flatpak has become some kind of Defacto standard with a lot of software only published there.

Also look how Valve and endless use flatpak on immutable sold systems.

The Main reason for more popularity of flatpak over snaps is the heavy promotion of flatpaks by gnome community, i mean the best place to enjoy the latest and greatest apps of gnome circle, flatpak is the best place as in flatpak all gnome circle apps are maintained by original authors but in snap very few gnome circle apps are available that too are usually outdated and poorly maintained since they are maintained by Canonical or other maintainers not related to upstream usually, same for kde , although kde promotes snap alongside flatpak still kde snaps are poorly maintained and sometimes outdated too, so basically 2 major powerhouses of Linux Gnome and Kde both support flatpaks better over snaps, gnome devs should be open towards snaps too just like kde does and then snaps will also get proper attention