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Ubuntu bungled the Firefox Snap package transition

I’m not a Snap hater. On paper it’s a good idea, but as a user I shouldn’t really be aware that ‘snaps’ even exist. In Ubuntu 21.10, Firefox became a snap package.

Arguably the browser is the most important application in an operating system. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of issues I’ve personally ran into. I should note that some of these issues are now fixed, but I wanted to illustrate what Ubuntu launched with:

  • KeePassXC, an open source password managers’ browser extension no longer works.
  • Firefox thinks that when opening ‘localhost:8080’ should open the URI scheme ‘localhost’ and tries to find an application that supports this scheme (now fixed!)
  • Gnome shell integration extension, the primary way to install gnome add-ons is now broken.
  • ‘Set image as desktop background’ is broken.
  • Opening applications via a custom URI scheme no longer asks for confirmation, this makes it possible to (for example) launch a bittorrent client like Transmission via a magnet: uri without asking a user.
  • The Mozilla VPN product has a neat feature that lets you have specific containers always use a VPN. This doesn’t work.
  • Firefox creates a ‘firefox.tmp’ directory in the Downloads folder (fixed!)
  • When there’s an update to the Firefox package, the following notification appears, once per day. Restarting Firefox does not make this go away. The official answer is to run snap refresh firefox to make it go away.
  • GSConnect Firefox Add-on is broken.

This is just the stuff I ran into myself, (and I have reported most of these). I imagine the total list of bugs must be way higher. I don’t usually go out and complain on the internet like this, especially when it’s about open source projects. I’m a Linux user, so I’ve kind of come to expect things to not be quite as polished as some of its commercial counterparts. They’re small trade-offs to support Open Source.

However, I’m so surprised by the lack of quality control for arguably the #1 application on the #1 linux distro I’m frankly flabbergasted, and for the first time since switching from Debian to Ubuntu 15ish years ago I’m considering jumping ship again. What happened here?

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