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Canonical, Snappy and the marketing value of collaboration

Bryan Lunduke | July 4, 2016
Canonical implies it is collaborating with nearly every major Linux distro for its Snappy project. It is not. And what could have been a marketing win for it is now a loss.

I'm not going to criticize the technical design of Snappy. I've read of some noteworthysecurity issues, but honestly, that's not what I'm too worried about at the moment. Overall, the design of Snaps seems fairly reasonable to me (at least at first glance).

Not actual collaboration

What I am concerned with, specifically, is the contents of that press release. Here's a quote: 

"Developers from multiple Linux distributions and companies today announced collaboration on the 'snap' universal Linux package format."

Then, farther down it says:

"Snaps now work natively on Arch, Debian, Fedora, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Ubuntu Kylin, Ubuntu MATE, Ubuntu Unity, and Xubuntu. They are currently being validated on CentOS, Elementary, Gentoo, Mint, OpenSUSE, OpenWrt and RHEL and are easy to enable on other Linux distributions."

The implication is that Canonical is directly collaborating with just about every major distribution on the planet. Which... that's great! More collaboration is wonderful! Shout it from the rooftops, Canonical!

There's only one problem: They're actually not. They implied it. But that doesn't appear to be what's happening.

Here's a quote from the blog of a Fedora contributor:

"The sum total of communication between Canonical and Fedora before the release of this press release was that they mailed us asking about the process of packaging Snappy for Fedora, and we told them about the main packaging process and COPR.

They certainly did not in any way inform Fedora that they were going to send out a press release strongly implying that Fedora, along with every other distro in the world, was now a happy traveler on the Snappy bandwagon."

Did Canonical state that they were collaborating with Fedora? No. They simply wrote the press release in such a way where it seemed like they were saying that. I missed most of the virtual press conference, but the way this news release was phrased and positioned led to headlines like the following:

"Canonical informed us that they've been working for some time with developers from various major GNU/Linux distributions to make the Snap package format universal for all OSes."

That article, contains this additional tidbit:

"Shortly after today's announcement, other major GNU/Linux distributions will adopt the Snap package as a universal binary format for their users. Among these, we can mention openSUSE, Linux Mint, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS, and elementary OS." 

Now, let's talk about this for a bit. Is openSUSE "shortly" going to be adopting Canonical's Snap package format? This is where my involvement in the openSUSE Board comes in handy. I can tell you, flat out, the answer is no.

Not long before Canonical issued this press release, I was contacted by someone from Canonical (I'm leaving his name out because he's a cool guy, and I don't think he did anything wrong) who had questions about what it would take to get Snappy working on openSUSE. I know this person also talked with someone else within the openSUSE project on the same topic. 


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