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Canonical is letting the Ubuntu Software Center wither and die

Chris Hoffman | Aug. 24, 2015
Dead Ubuntu Software Center walking.

In the end, the developer only got a response and not any help. “Unfortunately, we haven’t fixed your problem because as it stands we can’t afford to. The deb-based store has continued to be a huge problem over time and in fact it has been increasingly expensive to keep running,” wrote Canonical’s Martin Albisetti. “As it stands today, we won’t enable uploads to newer Ubuntu releases. It requires significant manual work that sometimes drags on for weeks.” But, at least he admitted what’s obvious: “We all agree the current situation with the deb-based [store] isn’t one to be proud of.”

While Canonical’s lack of resources are obvious and the choice is understandable, Canonical should have attempted to communicate this to developers in advance so they wouldn’t waste time and lose potential income by developing for what appears to be a dead platform. This particular developer now says he’s going to work on platforms provided by Apple, Google, and Microsoft—not by Ubuntu.

Quite a few Linux users feel Canonical has been focusing on Ubuntu for phones while largely ignoring the desktop most Ubuntu users actually use, and that certainly seems true here. This feeling is partly why Linux Mint has won so many fans.

Few people purchased apps from the store, anyway

Canonical’s paid app store never appeared to actually take off. Before Steam was available for Linux, the Humble Bundle project partnered with the app store and gave away Ubuntu Software Center codes for Linux games, allowing users to download them from that centralized location. As part of this, Super Meat Boy was added to the Ubuntu Software Center.

A year later, developer Ed McMillan claimed Canonical had sold Super Meat Boy for a year without permission and had yet to pay for those sales. Canonical’s David Pitkin said this was a miscommunication and Canonical would pay for all the copies of Super Meat Boy sold in a year—all 77 of them. This is a game that had sold over one million copies by the start of 2012. The Ubuntu Software Center’s sales were tiny. It’s unlikely paid app sales have picked up since this happened back in 2012.

Free software enthusiasts don’t like it, either

There are other reasons to dislike the Ubuntu Software Center, too.

Tony Mobily over at Free Software Magazine accused the Ubuntu Software Center of mixing proprietary software and actual open-source software without correctly labelling which was which. Packages are marked with “free” without clarifying what this actually means. Try to get the information by looking at details and you’ll be confronted by information like “License: Unknown” and “Updates: Unknown.” Rather than being malicious, this just seems like another sign of an app store ignored and left to rot.


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