Ubuntu Flavors Decide to Drop Flatpak

Flatpak will no longer be available “out-of-the-box” in any of Ubuntu’s official flavors.

In a surprise move, Ubuntu flavors have agreed to stop shipping Flatpak, preinstalled Flatpak apps, and any plugins needed to install Flatpak apps through a GUI software tool in the default package across all eight of Ubuntu’s official flavors, starting with the upcoming Ubuntu 23.04 release.

Ubuntu says the decision will “improve the out-of-the-box Ubuntu experience for new users” by making it clearer what the “Ubuntu experience” is.

Someone using a flavor that uses Flatpak might assume the tech gets the same level of support, bug fixes, and development attention from Ubuntu/Canonical as repo and snap apps.

Which is not the case.

As far as Ubuntu is concerned, only deb and snap software are intrinsic to the ‘Ubuntu experience’, and that experience should be maintained everywhere. Flavor leads apparently agree, and they’ve decided to mirror regular Ubuntu by not offering Flatpak features in their default install, in future releases.

Do keep in mind that “not installed by default” is not the same as “not available to install at all”.

To this end, Flatpak continues to be available in the Ubuntu repos, and users of Ubuntu flavors are free to install Flatpak (and any related packages) on their system, manually, as is their wont, anytime they like.

Additionally, Flatpak will not be uninstalled or removed when user makes the upgrade to Ubuntu 23.04 from a version where Flatpak is already present.

My thoughts?

This is a controversial decision — I know some will argue I’m making it controversial by covering it, but c’est la vie (cf. this site is banned on r/linux and I can guarantee they’ll be voicing opinions on it regardless of whether I cover it).

Thing is, while I understand regular Ubuntu not wanting to ship Flapak… Aren’t flavors, by their nature, there to surface alternatives to the vanilla Ubuntu experience? To add and augment; plug gaps; cater to other needs?

To hear flavors are going to NOT use something because regular Ubuntu doesn’t is a bit of a head scratcher!

Now, I don’t care which side of the ‘Flatpak vs snaps’ fence people get their posterior splinters from. I’m a massive advocate of “use what works for you”. Snaps – great! AppImages – cool! Nix – have at it! PPAs only – you do you.

But this feels regressive.

Ubuntu is drawing an ideological line in the sand that no-one’s asked it to make.