A few days after announcing it would effectively drop support for 32-bit software in future versions of the Ubuntu operating system, Canonical has decided to “change our plan and build selected 32-bit i386 packages.”

The company’s original decision sparked some backlash when it became clear that some existing apps and games would no longer run on Ubuntu 19.10 if the change were to proceed as planned.

Valve, for example, announced it would continue to support older versions of Ubuntu, allowing users to continue running its popular Steam game client. But moving forward, the company said it would be focusing its Steam for Linux efforts on a different GNU/Linux distribution.

While it’s unclear what impact Canonical’s change of plans will have on gamers, it does open the door to at least some 32-bit software continuing to be supported in the upcoming Ubuntu 19.10 and Ubuntu 20.04 LTS releases.

Canonical says it made its decision after receiving feedback from gamers, and members of the Ubuntu Studio and WINE communities, who would have all been affected by the elimination of 32-bit packages.

While Canonical has no plans to continue supporting all 32-bit packages, the company says it will “put in place a community process to determine which 32-bit packages are needed to support legacy software,” and enable support for the applications community members say they need moving forward.

The company still plans to drop 32-bit library support eventually… but Canonical says it hopes to address the need to continue running legacy applications on new versions of Ubuntu even when that happens, possibly through the use of containers that include a bundle of all the libraries you need to run a specific program. But until that solution is in place, it looks like the interim solution will be to ask members of the Ubuntu community to help decide which legacy software to continue supporting… which is better than nothing, I guess.

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4 replies on “Canonical (sort of) backtracks: Ubuntu will continue to support (some) 32-bit software”

  1. Ubuntu is the base for many Linux distros including two that might be heavily affected by dropping all 32 bit support, Puppy Linux and Lubuntu. Puppy in particular would have its mission perverted as it is intended for really old computers (the Pentium III and IV are two — those processors did not come in 64 bit versions), not supporting 32 bit would be a disaster for that distro. I suppose Puppy maintainers could attempt to use Debian (which still supports 32 bit and hasn’t announced any intent to change that) directly as its base but Puppy runs on a shoestring of volunteer maintainers and switching its base distro would probably be impossible due to the lack of programmers currently maintaining the distro. Lubuntu maintainers are currently toying with dropping 32 bit support because of a lack of programmers to continue to maintain that version and they have many more programmers maintaining their distro so how would Puppy do it on a fraction of the programmers maintaining that distro? IMO Canonical dropping 32 bit support on the mainline Ubuntu will be disastrous to Puppy Linux and will probably kill Puppy Linux (I think Lubuntu will survive but will lose those using it on older computers to Debian).

  2. Huh. I expected the backtracking to take maybe a week.
    I don’t mind them no longer building complete 32-bit installations. Ubuntu has never been very lightweight, so older 32-bit hardware can’t make as good use of it as newer hardware, and newer hardware is all 64-bit anyway.
    But dropping a ton of functioning software that other, historically interesting, or practical and irreplaceable, software needs to run is just going to anger users. And if they drop it, then anyone else can drop it, and when everyone drops it, it becomes a lot harder to find.

    1. If they said they were dumping 32 bit distributions no one would care. Dumping multilib support for 32 bit apps however is just plain stupid. Apps that aren’t well maintained will go by the wayside anyways but even the ability to add new 32 bit support could be important for old games or wine support.

      1. Has to be the stupidest idea that came out of Canonical yet…and they’ve had some real doozies. I actually don’t appreciate that one company in the linux community can exercise/wield so much power/influence over the rest of the community. I think this should be thought out better(by the community) going forward.

        Frankly, I wish I could do something about it…that is other than lend more support to the causes I believe in and take away support from those who shouldn’t be wielding this level of power over others to begin with…especially if they’re not responsible/humble enough to handle it. Therefore…I’m now banning ubuntu & any ubuntu distro related devices from further usage by my household. It’s about the best I can do. Although, I will be looking for new distros to financially support from now on. As of this moment, I don’t have a clue who that will be…other than perhaps debian. Maybe KDE Neon?

        Actually…I think I’m going to wait until Steam picks a good distro to “officially” support and stick with that distro…unless it turns out to be Canonical again.

        I’ve been around since Ubuntu 12.04…so not that long really. This Ubuntu/Canonical company…bunch of whiners that can never seem to actually finish a project. Very strange bird that one.

        They seem like the Microsoft of the linux community…perhaps since Microsoft bailed them out awhile back they have some sort of influence over the decisions they’re making? Who knows…but I’ve never seen someone claim to be for the people…and make anti-user decisions like this without some motivation that were not privy too? Again…strange…and quite bizarre behavior. Frankly, it’s my own opinion that there is something wrong going one here. Just like Mozilla…perhaps it’s just greed. This..I do not know.

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