Embracing Snaps: an Interview with Canonical and Slack

This year was a big one for companies like Canonical and Slack. It also was a big year for technologies that Canonical created to enable third-party application support—specifically, the snap package.

I'm sure most, if not all, of you have heard about this package manager. In fact, it's been around since at least 2014, but it initially was developed around Canonical's Ubuntu phone operating system. Now, although the phone operating system has since been canceled, snaps continue to dominate the operating system, in both the server and desktop space.

What Is a Snap?

A "snap" application package is a self-contained piece of software, and although it originally was designed to be hosted on Ubuntu, the package will work across a range of other Linux distributions. This isn't your traditional APT or YUM manager hosting DEB and RPM (or other) package formats.

Again, the appeal to snap packages is that they are self-contained (that is, containerized). They are designed to auto-update and are safe to run. A snap package is bundled with its dependencies, which is what allows it to run on all other major Linux distribution without any modification. It also doesn't have any dependency to any package manager or application store. But, don't misunderstand this—a package manager or application store still can host one or more snap packages; however, the snap package is not dependent to that manager.

Snapcraft is the official tool for software developers to package their software programs in a Snap format.

Sitting Down with Canonical and Slack

Earlier this year on January 18th, Canonical announced the first iteration of Slack as a snap. But, why was this announcement so important? I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Evan Dandrea of Canonical and Felix Riesberg of Slack. They gave me the answers I was looking for.

Evan's team at Canonical builds the platform to make everyone's life easier—that is, Snapcraft. And Felix's team leverages that very same platform to bring wonderful applications, such as Slack, to your Linux desktop.

First, for those not familiar with Slack, it's an enterprise software platform that allows teams and businesses (of all sizes) to communicate effectively. It's organized, easily accessible, and more important, it allows for better and more efficient communication than email. Slack isn't limited to just professional use; it also can be adopted for more personal uses.

The Interview

Petros Koutoupis: Why snap?