Due in part to the feedback given to the group over the weekend and because of their connections with Valve, Canonical did an about-face today. They’ve suggested that feedback from gamers, Ubuntu Studio, and the WINE community led them to change their plan and will “build selected 32-bit i386 packages for Ubuntu 19.10 and 20.04 LTS. Whether this will change Valve’s future with Ubuntu Steam, we’ll see.
“Community discussions can sometimes take unexpected turns, and this is one of those,” said a Canonical representative this afternoon. They suggested that after they’d released Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, they’d had “extensive threads on the Ubuntu-devel list, and “consulted Valve in detail on the topic.” They didn’t see any issues with the changes they were about to make with Ubuntu 20.04. Clearly someone forgot to speak up.
They’re not suggesting there’ll never be an end to 32-bit libraries – that’ll end some day. But they are, now, saying that 32-bit doesn’t need to end just yet. “It should stay possible to run old applications on newer versions of Ubuntu.”
They did make clear the risk this continued to contain – that of a developer community spread more and more thin. With fewer people working on each different iteration of Ubuntu, there’s greater chance that software vulnerabilities become major venues for hacker attack. “You’ve heart about Spectre and Meltdown – many of the mitigations for those attacks are unavailable to 32-bit systems.”
They’ve also meant to make clear that it’d always been their intention to allow users to run 32-bit applications on 64-bit Ubuntu, and that their kernels allowed for that to happen. But again, whether that’ll mean Steam continues to be supported for Ubuntu in the near future – that’s a different question altogether. We’ll let you know what we know when we know it, as soon as possible!