Snappy Is Finally Doing Something About Super Large App Sizes

A new GNOME platform snap could lead to smaller downloads


snappy logoUbuntu is finally doing something to tackle the size of Snap apps, albeit only for GNOME apps at present.

A new GNOME platform snap is available in for testing in the testing channel of the Snap store.

This snap will allow devs to build and distribute smaller GNOME Snap apps.

Because apps will be able to ‘hook in’ to the GNOME platform Snap they won’t need to (re)distribute a large chunk of the GNOME platform within their package.

And that means smaller downloads and smaller install sizes.

In instances where users have multiple GNOME snaps installed this could free up a considerable amount of disk space.

Available for Testing

‘This will allow people to run the latest GNOME apps on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS’

“The GNOME 3.24 platform Snap is now published in the store edge channel,” Ubuntu desktop manager Will Cooke writes in a blog post. “This allows the developers to build smaller GNOME Snaps. This will allow people to run the latest GNOME apps on Xenial.”

This is a rather small statement for what is arguably a very big feature — and a rather big issue, too! Snap download and install size is one of the most oft-cited criticisms levelled at the fledgling cross-distro app distribution format on social media, blog posts and Reddit.

And for good reason.

The Corebird Twitter client is available through apt as a ~2MB download. The Corebird Flatpak will pull in roughly 12MB. But the Corebird Snap app is (as of writing) a whopping 112MB download.

Yikes!

Catching Up With Flatpak

The introduction of platform snaps is a logical way forward, though it’s not a new concept.

Flatpak has made use of GNOME platform runtimes for other Flatpak apps to use almost since day dot. This is how it’s been possible to  run the latest version of GNOME apps like Nautilus, Photos and Maps on distributions running older versions of GNOME.

Although it a) confuses the heck out of me and b) makes my system slow to a crawl, I did install Nautilus 3.24 on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and it works exactly as it should. Better still, I don’t need to install it or pass it any additional arguments like --edge or --classic to get it to ‘see’ my local files.

The GNOME platform snap is still currently in testing and, as of writing, I don’t know a single app that’s been packaged to make use of it as of writing.

It’s better late than never, though.

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