It’s probably no surprise to many of you that PackageKit has been in maintenance mode for quite some time. Although started over ten years ago (!) it’s not really had active maintenance since about 2014. Of course, I’ve still been merging PRs and have been slinging tarballs over the wall every few months, but nothing new was happening with the project, and I’ve worked on many other things since.
I think it’s useful for a little retrospective. PackageKit was conceived as an abstraction layer over about a dozen different package management frameworks. Initially it succeeded, with a lot of front ends UIs being written for the PackageKit API, making the Linux desktop a much nicer place for many years. Over the years, most package managers have withered and died, and for the desktop at least really only two remain,
.deb. The former being handled by the
dnf PackageKit backend, and the latter by
Canonical seems to be going all in on Snaps, and I don’t personally think of
.deb files as first class citizens on Ubuntu any more – which is no bad thing. Snaps and Flatpaks are better than packages for desktop software in almost every way. Fedora is concentrating on Modularity and is joining with most of the other distros with a shared Flatpak and Flathub future and seems to be thriving because of it. If course, I’m missing out a lot of other distros, but from a statistics point of view they’re unfortunately not terribly relevant. Arch users are important, but they’re also installing primarily on the command line, not using an abstraction layer or GUI. Fedora is also marching towards an immutable base image using rpmostree, containers and flatpaks, and then PackageKit isn’t only not required, but doesn’t actually get installed at all in Fedora SilverBlue.
GNOME Software and the various KDE software centers already have an abstraction in the session; which they kind of have to to support per-user flatpak applications and per-user pet containers like Fedora Toolbox. I’ve also been talking to people in the Cockpit project and they’re in the same boat, and basically agree that having a shared system API to get the installed package list isn’t actually as useful as it used to be. Of course, we’ll need to support mutable systems for a long time (RHEL!) and so something has to provide a D-Bus interface to provide that. I’m not sure whether that should be
dnfdaemon providing a PackageKit-compatible API, or it should just implement a super-simple interface that’s not using an API design from the last decade. At least from a gnome-software point of view it would just be one more plugin, like we have a plugin for Flatpak, a plugin for Snap, and a plugin for PackageKit.