Actually, Ubuntu 21.10 “Impish Indri”, the release of which is scheduled for October 14th, is already in the Feature Freeze. Last week, however, an application was received for an exception that provides for the standard installation of Firefox in consultation with Mozilla in Snap format, as is already the case with Google’s Chromium browser.
The measure, which has now been approved, should offer enough time to correct errors until Firefox as a snap becomes the standard for the desktop images of the next LTS version of Ubuntu in spring 2022. The snap package is to be created for the architectures amd64, armhf and arm64 . It is to be maintained by Mozilla and Canonical’s desktop team and published by Mozilla.
The measure affects users who install Ubuntu 21.10 or update to this version. This does not (yet) affect the other versions of Ubuntu with desktop environments that differ from GNOME. Linux Mint users should also be spared the change, as the Mint developers had already introduced the not Chromium snap . As can be seen in the corresponding blog entry on Ubuntu, the idea for Firefox as a snap came from Mozilla, which see the following advantages:
- platform support: The Snap runs on all distributions on which Cross- snapd runs
- Authenticity: Firefox comes straight from the source, unadulterated
- Faster updates, the waiting time for the DEB of usually a few days is no longer necessary
- Less time for maintenance, more time for new features: Community developers can focus on innovation instead of worrying about support.
Browsers are very labor-intensive for a distribution because they have to be updated often for security reasons. Even if the build automatisms relieve a lot of the work here, browsers require significantly more time from the package maintainers than most other packages. That’s one point in favor of Snap in browsers. Apart from the criticisms that have already been made, such as the proprietary Snapstore, the concerns of the Ubuntu community expressed in the blog relate, among other things, to the problem of the generally slower start of Snaps, which is actually not acceptable with a browser and, in the case of Chromium, even after two years is not completely eliminated.
Another question is security. Snaps use a sandbox, but Firefox already has its own sandbox. Both are intended to complement each other in this case, with the Firefox sandbox protecting the browser from malicious code, while the Snap sandbox protecting the user from malicious browser behavior. For users who reject Firefox as a snap, there is still the option of obtaining the browser directly from Mozilla, even if Canonical no longer delivers the DEB package after the end of support on October 21st. However, the ARM platform is left out.
In my opinion, Canonical will continue to scare users away with the further move towards the snap format and the associated foreseeable departure from the maintainer model with its own distribution repository. However, it is doubtful whether more snaps will add new users.