If there is one thing that normally characterizes the entire Linux ecosystem, it is that there are many solutions to one problem. Recently we told you about a package distribution problem that both Snap and Flatpak are trying to solve from their perspectives. They bring several advantages to developers who see how it is becoming easier to distribute their applications across all Linux distributions. But it is not about creating controversy with a simple Snap vs Flatpak but putting both technologies in perspective and answering the following question Which one should I use?
Snap vs Flatpak
Both Snap and Flatpak arise to answer a particular need with the distribution of packages for Linux. It turns out that applications have many dependencies that cannot always be met in Linux distributions.
This could force the developer to create individual packages for each distribution which is cumbersome and leads to a waste of time.
On the other hand, there is the issue of security, both Flatpak and Snap shielding applications from accessing critical parts of the system. Bringing much more security than ever before. It also helps to test new applications with the assurance that they will not disturb the operating system.
Despite their common points, there are some things these technologies differ in, and this has had an impact on how different Linux distributions adopt them. In the end, it is the user who may end up being confused by all this.
Snap vs Flatpak: The common points
First, we have to start with some of the common points of both technologies:
They both aim to change the way software is distributed on Linux distributions.
- Their packages are self-contained. That is to say, within them, not only the application as such is packaged, but all the dependencies required for the execution of the program.
- Both Snap and Flatpak isolate these packages so that they do not affect the system. This brings an important security extra.
- One technology does not exclude the other.
- While it is true that both Snap and Flatpak are different, both are compatible with many Linux distributions. Including the popular Ubuntu and Linux Mint.
- Many popular applications, like Spotify, GIMP, Visual Code Studio or Telegram bet on both technologies as a reliable method of package distribution.
These are the main similarities and commonalities. That is, both want to solve the problem similarly but we will see the main differences.
The most important differences
Thanks to the common points, it is easy to guess that both are very good technologies with great aspirations for the future. However, they differ in the way they solve the problem and in some specific situations.
The first big difference is that Snap is a project of Canonical that in the future intends that all Ubuntu programs will use this technology. While Flatpak is not associated with any Linux distribution and its goal is to improve the installation of the programs in Linux.
However, not all Ubuntu packages are desktop applications but also focused on IoT or network services. Therefore, Snap supports these technologies while Flatpak focuses on desktop applications
On the other hand, Snap being a Canonical project is installed by default on Ubuntu. While Flatpak, although it is in the repositories of many distributions, is not installed by default.
Then there is the main difference between both: the way of distributing the packages. Snap packages can only be distributed through the Canonical store, i.e. they are linked to it. This brings some advantages like improved security but limits the developer. Conversely, Flatpak is not connected to any shop and this makes each developer the owner of the shop’s distribution. This is more in line with the open-source philosophy.
This has resulted in a diatribe among the major Linux distributions and the entire community that sees Canonical as taxing. Anyway, Canonical defends itself saying that it is for security and compatibility issues.
So, Which one should I use?
The truth is that it is not an easy task to decide which is better because the current situation of both is very good. From here we have tried several applications using both technologies and the truth is that they both work very well.
Also, it has to do with the fact that if you use Ubuntu, Snap will integrate better than Flatpak and will be installed by default. On the other hand, distributions like Fedora, Elementary, Linux Mint, and Debian have opted for Flatpak.
Therefore, a criterion in the final decision can be related to the distribution you use.
Another aspect to take into account is whether you are a developer or not. A developer usually likes to be in control of the distribution of his programs. Especially if they are personal projects or related to something important about him. In this sense, Flatpak gives total independence from the distribution to the developer who can create his repository. A different case from Snap.
Also, the application catalog plays an important role. Both have many programs available including some quite popular ones, but it gives the feeling that there are more in Snap than in Flatpak.
So, in the end, the decision is yours and it will depend on which one fits better to your needs.
The table is served with these two technologies that come to help more applications for Linux. Yes, because of the developer with just one package of his application. This will make it available to many Linux distributions without worrying about anything else.
As you have seen, they are very similar in objectives but have marked differences. And one of them is a big difference. So, you can choose any of them because you have the guarantee that they will work properly.