APT package manager being used to update Ubuntu

Why Ubuntu will not Abandon APT

A rumour has recently been circulating the internet suggesting that Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, will drop support for the APT package manager in favour of SNAP packages. Although Canonical has already confirmed this is not the case, there were ample reasons to be skeptical of this story even before it was officially debunked.

Ubuntu is by far the world’s most widely deployed flavour of Linux. It became popular in the mid 2000s due to its easy installation process, user friendly interface, and its Debian base. Debian has been using the APT package manager since 1998 and has built up a software repository of over 51k packages which are available on both Debian and its derivatives including Ubuntu. Although there are thousands of SNAP packages available now, it will take years for SNAP to offer anywhere close to the selection of software available in the Debian repository. This alone will prevent Canonical from abandoning APT in the near future.

Ubuntu users and system administrators have also built up a fondness for APT over the last 15 years. Although many users rely on the graphical software centre to install software, many advanced users use the APT and APT-GET tools at the command-line to install most of their software. Since most Ubuntu servers only offer a command-line interface, this is how software is deployed on almost all servers. System administrators would not take kindly to APT being removed from Ubuntu server. Although Debian is where APT originated, most users and sysadmins were introduced to it on Ubuntu and is one of the reasons they stick with it, so removing APT would certainly cause a major backlash in the community.

The final reason Canonical would not remove APT in favour of SNAP is technical in nature. SNAP packages were designed to be a distribution agnostic way of installing software on Linux in a simple manner that avoids dependency issues and other things that have historically plagued Linux software installation. It achieves this by providing an all inclusive package that provides both the software itself and the correct versions of all its required dependencies for the software to run. This does eliminate some hassle, but there is a trade off. Since the dependencies are bundled with each package, you will end up with larger software packages due to having multiple copies of the same libraries. This not only takes up unnecessary disk space, but also uses more memory because a copy of each library is loaded into memory when you launch each application. This is certainly considered to be a problem for those of us who are system resource conscious. There are also other technical reasons why SNAPs are not the best solution, including some theming issues, etc.

For these reasons it is unlikely Canonical will abandon APT anytime soon. Doing so would severely limit their software library and alienate many longtime users and system administrators. I think we can be fairly confident that APT will be available in Ubuntu for the foreseeable future.