Why it matters: Linux has become the backbone of many technology standards and software products. In the traditional desktop space, however, the open-source kernel is anything but a successful. If the suggestion about a “universal” app store for Linux distros gains enough support, things could change fast.
Some influential people in the open-source community are pushing for the adoption of a one-stop app store for Linux-based operating systems. The store would be built on Flatpak, a popular software deployment and package management utility, and it could provide customers with the same user-friendly approach other popular app stores in the consumer market are known for.
Spotted by ZDnet’s Steven Vaughan-Nichols, the proposal for a Flatpack-based, universal Linux app store is hosted by Eric Schmidt’s technology incubation project Plaintext Group and signed by GNOME Foundation president Robert McQueen, former GNOME executive director and Debian project leader Neil McGovern, and KDE community president Aleix Pol.
The proposal’s main goal is to “promote diversity and sustainability” in the Linux desktop community by “adding payments, donations and subscriptions” to the Flathub app store. Flathub is the standard app repository for Flatpak, a project described as a “vendor-neutral service” for Linux application development and deployment.
Flatpak was chosen as a potential universal Linux app store as the tool can already run on virtually any Linux distribution, or even within the Windows Subsystem for Linux. The utility offers a sandbox environment designed to run applications in isolation from the rest of the system, a “containerized” approach that gives developers an easier way to create, deliver and update their software products.
The universal app store proponents say that “a healthy application ecosystem is essential for the success of the OSS desktop,” so that end-users can “trust and control” their data and development platforms on the device they are using. Flathub has been jointly built by the GNOME foundation and KDE, and it isn’t the only app store available in the Linux world.
Alternative solutions like Canonical’s Snaps, however, are sitting under the control of a single corporation and aren’t designed as a universal Linux app store from the get-go. Canonical has recently decided that neither Ubuntu, nor the other Ubuntu-based distros (Kubuntu, Lubuntu, etc.), will give their official support to Flatpak. Users can manually add the tool after installing the operating system, though.
Besides providing a universal app store for the entire Linux world, Flatpak supporters also want to “incentivize participation in the Linux application ecosystem,” and remove financial barriers that prevent diverse participation. For this reason, the proponents are planning to add a new way to send donations and payments via Stripe within this year.