After a few of the most seemingly uneventful Ubuntu releases in its history, Canonical is making a few major changes to patch up Ubuntu 16.04 LTS for the long haul. Aside from disabling those reviled online search results, the next version of Ubuntu will also dump the Ubuntu Software Center and replace it with GNOME’s Software application.
The Ubuntu Software Center has been neglected
This isn’t huge news if you’ve been keeping track of the increasing deterioration of the Ubuntu Software Center. This summer, I chronicled how Canonical was slowly letting the Ubuntu Software Center wither and die. The paid “app store” side of it was axed with no warning to developers. Ubuntu MATE 15.10 already dropped the Software Center for something better.
The Software Center was great when it was released, offering a more user-friendly “app store”-like interface for installing Linux software. But it has stagnated and is rather slow. Other applications—particularly GNOME’s Software app—have caught up. Ubuntu’s developers haven’t really been working much on the Ubuntu Software Center, after all. They’ve been working on the next-generation app store for Unity 8, which works on Ubuntu for phones and will eventually arrive on the desktop with the converged Unity 8 desktop.
GNOME Software to the rescue
If you’ve ever used Fedora—or just seen screenshots of it—you’ve probably seen GNOME’s Software application in action. Fedora, a fairly GNOME-centric Linux distribution, was the first to adopt it.
This will give the traditional Unity 7 desktop on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS a stable software center that other people are working on and maintaining, freeing up development time. It’s also more modern, and Ubuntu’s developers feel it would be easier to add support for those new container-like Snappy packages to GNOME Software than to the old Ubuntu Software Center.
As Canonical’s Will Cooke said in a video titled Developer Desktop Plan 16.04: “We are more confident in our ability to add support for Snaps to GNOME Software Center (sic) than we are to Ubuntu Software Center. And so, right now, it looks like we will be replacing [the Ubuntu Software Center] with GNOME Software Center with plugins to support Snaps, and the archive, and the ratings, and the comments from the Ubuntu Software Center.”
This could bring Ubuntu some other nice features, too. For example, the GNOME Software application now provides an interface for installing UEFI firmware updates on modern PCs.
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS also sees some more tidying up, with the Brasero disc-burning app and Empathy instant-messaging app being dumped from the default system. Both are still available from the repositories if you want them, as are many alternatives. I’ve always preferred Pidgin to Empathy, myself.