Canonical is willing to convert Snap, at least, into the new package format for Ubuntu applications (and if possible for the rest of the distributions ), so after the rivers of ink that ran through the Chromium case, now we comes a “sequel” with Firefox, which in Ubuntu 21.10 indicates that it will be served in Snap format .
Canonical employee Olivier Tilloy has submitted a feature freeze exception (FFE) for the Firefox Deb package to be replaced by another in Snap format. Apparently the decision to propose this change was not taken unilaterally by the Ubuntu developer company, but derived from an agreement with Mozilla as can be read in the corresponding bug in Launchpad :
Based on Canonical’s distribution agreement with Mozilla, we are making the plugin the default Firefox installation on desktop ISOs starting with Ubuntu 21.10.
The plugin is compiled and published for amd64, armhf, and arm64. It is jointly maintained by Mozilla and the Ubuntu Desktop, and published by Mozilla.
The information we have obtained suggests that Mozilla will play an active role in maintaining Firefox in Snap format, which would alleviate a situation that the browser has dragged on for a long time and that the foundation did not decide to tackle until relatively recently : lack of communication with distributions to improve bug resolution in Firefox for Linux.
The push for Firefox in Snap format as a joint effort by Canonical and Mozilla is reinforced by the explanations given by Ken VanDine on Discourse , who has motivated the change in improving cross-platform support by providing a package that can work on any distribution that makes use of snapd, the receipt of an unadulterated application , the easiest update and the shortest time necessary to maintain it .
The distribution of Firefox in Snap format in Ubuntu 21.10 has a good chance of becoming a reality, because apart from everything mentioned by Canonical, in the Firefox 92 release notes you can read the following: “Canonical is now building an official Firefox Snap . It is now also available in two additional architectures, ARMhf and ARM64 (which added to x86 64-bit) ” .
In short, supplying Firefox in Snap format is, at least on paper, a great advantage for users of snapd in general and Ubuntu in particular, but we fear that discrepancies will come from now on, quite possibly following the same line we saw with Chromium.
First, it will be necessary to see how the derivatives of Ubuntu are taken this news . Linux Mint created a lot of dust at the time with Chromium, and while there were many complaints and few solutions at first , then those responsible for the derivative decided to package the browser themselves . This time the situation is different, since Linux Mint has and pre-installs its own Firefox package, but we must bear in mind that there are dozens derived from Ubuntu and not all of them have the means to maintain their own Firefox package, so there will be to see if they decide to rely on what Linux Mint offers.
On the other hand we have the multiple debates around the package formats. Some reject both Snap and Flatpak outright due to technical reasons, others defend Flatpak over Snap out of fear that the latter will give Canonical too much power over Linux application distribution, and still others defend Snap over Flatpak because the former allows compilation. Statistics and has a greater number of official compilations of applications from companies, such as Spotify and Visual Studio Code .
In short, the change from Firefox to Snap format in Ubuntu 21.10 apparently has a good chance of materializing , although at a technical level there are still points to be polished such as the installation of extensions for GNOME (which it does not support at the moment), the fact that it does not use the default download folder and custom themes, icons, colors, and fonts are not always applied correctly.
And you, what do you think of this change proposed by Canonical (with the blessing of Mozilla)? It is true that technically there is the possibility that the company keeps the Deb package while putting the Snap version by default, but seeing the Chromium precedent, the logical thing is to think of a replacement process.