Collaboration KDE and GNOME puts Flatpak and Snap firmly in their saddles

This week KDE and GNOME hosted the Linux App Summit (LAS). The two major desktop environment creators, together with other desktop developers landed in Barcelona to make the Linux desktop a more unified and friendlier environment for all users.

The goal is to make software delivery for Linux easier for both developers and users.

As Rob McQueen, a GNOME board member said on a panel:

“We’re all motivated by the same thing. We’re all lovers of the free desktop.” Specifically, for apps, “We both agree that this is a bottleneck in getting people to engage with the Linux desktop. It made perfect sense to look for something bigger than our desktop to pull together on the Linux desktop. “

Alex Pol, KDE’s president, agreed.

“We’re making something that will get bigger over time, which will let people do what they want to do with a desktop.”

Frank Karlitschek, NextCloud founder and former KDE board member said in addition:

“One problem both are addressing is how to make it easier for independent software vendors (ISVs) to deliver programs to Linux users. Until recently, you had to hand-craft Linux desktop programs to each specific distro and its various releases. Needless to say, most ISVs didn’t want to go to the trouble. because it’s hard for ISVs to make Linux desktop programs, there are only four or five-hundred Linux apps compared to tens of thousands on macOS and Windows.”

Most devs and a lot of Linux community members as well agree with these statements and that’s why the focus of LAS was on the independent package managers Snap and Flatpak to build a bridge in the Linux landscape. Notably, the third big option AppImage didn’t receive any attention to LAS.

Alexander Larsson, Flatpak’s founder, explained:

“It’s mostly for app developers, but users get to take advantage of it. It makes it easier for developers to ship apps to users.”

Flatpak’s design works well on both Gnome Neon and Plasma, which makes it a serious contender.

Snap uses the same approach, Alan Pope, community manager for Ubuntu’s engineering services explains:

“We realized it would work well for delivering desktop apps as well. You can snap install Node.JS and be ready to create JavaScript applications.” Like Flatpack, “It’s more about empowering developers to get their packages into users hands very fast. They don’t need to worry about the distribution. It’s like on my Android phone. I want the latest version of Spotify and the same goes for my desktop. … Users don’t want a gatekeeping distro holding back the latest updates.”

Applications delivered by either run in a virtual sandbox. This makes them safer to use. They can also run on any desktop distro. Neither users nor developers have to worry about the underlying distro or its version because all the needed components for the application come already bundled.

Both are widely supported on Linux desktop distributions. Indeed, Endless OS and Fedora Silverblue rely entirely on Flatpak for application distribution. Both have also been criticized for being too slow to launch, too much memory hungry, and not secure enough. 

The tone was clear at LAS that these two will be the future of Linux application delivery. It just makes life so much easier for desktop application developers that there’s no going back.  Will it be enough to make 2020 the year of the Linux desktop? That’s another question. What is certain is that this new approach will make it much easier for developers to get more applications into Linux user hands.

You can also read more on the subject in this article.

Follow us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: