@futuretim let me acknowledge the feeling you have; I think it’s completely understandable, and also quite rational. Yes, there is a risk that something wipes out Canonical, and with it perhaps your investment of time in snaps. I don’t think you’re crazy to have that feeling, in your shoes I might have the same feeling too. I want to acknowledge that this is an understandable feeling that doesn’t have anything to do with animosity towards Canonical, it’s normal even for a person who is a supporter in general of Ubuntu.
From where I am, with many years of dedication to getting things right in open source, I think we are doing the right thing in the way we are investing in snaps (despite quite a lot of social pressure to stop) and that includes the approach we have taken with the store. It’s a complicated set of trades, and I don’t have a crystal ball either, but I feel that we are on the right track. It’s a complicated decision in part because I acknowledge the uncertainty it creates in people like you, who are part of what makes Ubuntu special. Nevertheless, I know what happens if I, and my colleagues, are afraid of complicated and conflicted decisions, which is that we then fail to keep Ubuntu at the front of what’s possible, and that hurts our users more.
So when I respond to these sorts of questions, it’s not that I am dismissive of concerns, it’s rather that I have a view that on balance this is the right way forward.
I’m not going to restate all of the pros and cons here, they have mostly been covered a thousand times. Perhaps its worth stating, though, that I don’t think the snap store is any more a critical vulnerability than Canonical itself. Fact is we are a tiny company, 1/20th the size of Red Hat by revenue. I deliberately chose to build on Debian not simply because I was a DD but because I recognise the resiliency of a pure-community effort. I also recognise it’s limitations, which is why I thought the combination of Debian and Ubuntu could be a winner that moved the state of the social-technical-OS-business art forward beyond where ‘enterprise linux’ had got to in 2004.
The fact that Ubuntu has been SO widely adopted is wonderful and a validation, and also of course keeps me awake at night because it’s a big responsibility. If we make a bad mistake, or get upended, then a lot of people who have embraced Ubuntu, even if they don’t contribute with time or money, will lose a great deal even if they don’t use the snap store at all. Most of what makes Ubuntu special depends in some way on Canonical, otherwise it would have happened organically before Canonical :). That doesn’t give us the right to ‘trap’ anybody in some sort of proprietary infra, btw, and that’s not the argument I find convincing for the snap store approach we have followed, but it recognises that taking some risks of the sort that make you sincerely uncomfortable is warranted, because I know that those risks are no different than the wider story, that Canonical’s continued success, and ability to be successful with out me or its current generation of leaders, is important to the future of Ubuntu’s community and users.
I can tell you we have spent much time investing in ways to de-SPOF snaps from Canonical. Many of the capabilities for offline use of snaps are there because we share the concerns you outline, of wanting the ability to distribute software without the store. I’m OK that we haven’t gone and built ANOTHER store codebase for people who want to do that, because I believe that in open source environments genuine gaps get filled organically. I took the view that we were way ahead in seeing the need for this kind of high-security, high-reliability, high-integration app distribution capability, and we should keep going even if others would prefer we stop to neutralise a perceived competitive advantage.
Anyhow, I’ll stop there, I just wanted to acknowledge your feelings on the topic, as a supporter of Ubuntu.