Canonical wants better Snap support outside Ubuntu, based on latest hires

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Snap icons from the Snap store

Canonical/Ubuntu

Snaps, the self-contained application packages that Ubuntu has long seen as a simpler app store and a potential solution to dependency hell, could be getting better support outside Ubuntu itself, based on one recent hire and potentially more.

As spotted by the Phoronix blog, developer Zygmunt Krynicki, who worked at Ubuntu distributor Canonical from 2012 through 2020, posted Friday on Mastodon that he was “returning as a snap developer later this month.” His main focus would be “cross-distribution support,” Krynicki wrote, and “unlike in the past this will be my full time job. I’m very excited for what is ahead for snaps.” He also noted, in a later reply, that he was “not coming back alone.”

Krynicki, reached Monday on Mastodon, noted that he was at a very early stage in his work. But he intended to look at the state of support across distributions, determine which long-term and short-term work to focus on, and “work on the internals and get things progressively better, even if that is not flashy.”

That means refactoring some of the code and, “if realistic, change some of the old ideas that I believe hold the project back,” Krynicki wrote. The challenge will be finding ways to “experiment with new ideas in ways that allow controlled but more rapid progress,” while maintaining stability. But all of that needs discussing with his team, when they’re fully in place, Krynicki wrote.

That team and their work would indicate that the Ubuntu makers have listened to perhaps the most common criticism of Snaps, whether perceptual, logistical, or both: that Snaps are an Ubuntu-focused phenomenon. Snap packages have difficulty working without AppArmor, a kernel extension that is a default in Ubuntu but not every other Linux distribution.

Canonical also maintains the Snap Store. While other stores of Snaps are possible, some distributions and software packagers have turned instead to Flatpak, a similarly containerized system that doesn’t have deep ties to any one distribution.

Ubuntu offers an entirely containerized, Snap-focused version of Ubuntu for Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing devices, Ubuntu Core. It’s also working toward an entirely Snap-based desktop offering, though the company noted that Snaps “are a little famous for having some rough edges on the desktop.” Because they are fully containerized environments, Snaps tend to use more disk space and can have start-up time and performance issues, along with awkward or limited interaction with other aspects of the desktop and other applications.

Ars reached out to Canonical for comment on this post, and we will update with any new information.

Listing image by Getty Images

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