Exploring the new Flatpak and Snap package formats


Flatpak and Snap shake the foundations of the package management system principle, causing tremors among the stalwarts of all current Linux distributions. At first glance, the idea behind these upstart package systems makes good sense: If you are constantly dealing with backports, or if you have to resolve package dependencies manually, provisioning independent containers with applications is certainly an appealing concept.

On closer inspection, however, it turns out that the principle still has some rough edges. Snap and Flatpak are pursuing similar goals and are basically competing approaches. Fedora, the driving force behind Flatpak, insists that their system is more at home on desktops, and Canonical, maintainer of the Snap, touts the benefits of Snap as a tool for server rooms.

The user groups forming up around the Flatpak and Snap communities seem eerily similar to the split between RPM and Dpkg that has inconvenienced the Linux world for decades. It might be more sensible to agree on a common approach and to pursue it. But this hope seems futile given the dynamics of the open source world.

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