Snap packages are not an Ubuntu-only thing any more. Developers from multiple Linux distributions and companies, including Dell, Samsung, the Linux Foundation, and more, announced the collaboration on the snap universal Linux package format, which allows using a single package on any Linux desktop, server, cloud or device.
Right now, snap packages work natively on Ubuntu (with Unity), Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Ubuntu Kylin, Ubuntu MATE, and Xubuntu, as well as Arch Linux, Debian, and Fedora. According to the press release, snaps are currently being validated on CentOS, elementary OS, Gentoo, Linux Mint, openSUSE, OpenWrt, and RHEL.
"Most vendors target Ubuntu because of its popularity. [...] Snaps bring those apps to every Linux desktop, server, device or cloud machine, giving users freedom to choose any Linux distribution while retaining access to the best apps".
- Mark Shuttleworth
What's a snap package?
A snap package is a single binary that contains all its dependencies. That means developers no longer have to build a package for each Linux distribution and each version, and instead, they can use a single, unmodified package, and distribute it across all the platforms that support snaps.
"Maintaining .deb packages in a private repository was complex and time consuming, snaps are much easier to maintain, package and distribute. Putting the snap in the store was particularly simple, this is the most streamlined app store I have published software in".
- Boudewijn Rempt, project lead at the Krita Foundation
Krita 3.0, released recently, is already available via Ubuntu Software as a snap package that will be updated automatically once new versions are out.
That's because a snap package can be updated or rolled back automatically if needed. Furthermore, snap packages are strictly confined and sandboxed to safeguard your data and system.
Also, since snaps are basically self-contained zip files, they are also easier to create.
"Our objective is to make LibreOffice easily available to as many users as possible. Snaps enable our users to get the freshest LibreOffice releases across different desktops and distributions quickly, easily and consistently. As a bonus, it should help our release engineers to distribute a more up-to-date LibreOffice that is not based on a bespoke, home-grown Linux build solution, using a toolchain that is collectively maintained".
- Thorsten Behrens, founder and board member of The Document Foundation
Snaps were initially created by Canonical for Snappy Ubuntu Core, a cloud-optimized Ubuntu edition, but were later adopted on the Ubuntu desktop and server, with the latest Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.
Snaps are complementary to existing Linux packages, not created to replace them
Snaps won't replace the native packages used by various Linux distributions. For instance, Ubuntu (desktop and server) will continue to support the .deb format, and deb archive will be available to use and distribute software.
Snaps only complement the base OS with universal apps that cannot interfere with the base OS or one another.