Packaging unification in Linux

It seems that talk has been started around the unification of packaging systems for various Linux distributions. There are currently different systems. Maybe the main ones are the Debian system (files with  .deb extension being used among others by Debian, Ubuntu or Mint) and the RPM system (with .rpm extension, being used by RedHat, Fedora, OpenSuse and others), but there are more, for instance the  Pacman system used by Arch Linux.

This creates a big duplication of efforts for packages which at the programming level are in most of the cases developed in an unified way and not separately for each distribution. This also generates an added difficulty for new users since they have to face different styles and formats depending on the distribution they want to try or use.

Therefore the unification around a single packaging system would be a big thing, both for the developers as well as for the users and for Linux in general. There will be always obviously the possibility to continue with alternative packaging systems if any distribution prefers to have its own system, since the disadvantage of unifying the packaging systems is that one of the variety aspects that make Linux attractive would be lost. Now, the conflict arises between the advantages of standardization against the disadvantages of the loss of variation.

It seems also that the Ubuntu Software Center interface is also liked by people of other distributions and they would be thinking of adopting it as the interface of the unified packaging system. Here the problem is the Contributor License Agreement that Canonical (sponsoring firm for Ubuntu) asks all contributors to packages developed by Canonical to sign. This would be an obstacle for this interface to become the common interface, and Canonical would have to detach this package from this license agreement so that it could be considered as a the common interface.

The application to be used for the packaging itself woulb be PackageKit.

We will have to pay therefore attention to the development of this initiative. I personally like the idea, since I think that all elements that can benefit of economies of scale, for instance the packaging of software and its access by a number of users that can generate a large installed base, have to rely on clear and well designed standards. The variety comes from the available software, which may increase within a unified platform, and not by the way it is packaged.