Valve recently announced that Steam would not support Ubuntu beyond version 19.10 due to it dropping 32-bit packages and libraries, which would create a compatibility headache for the gaming giant. After considering the community feedback, and probably their relationship with Steam, Canonical have changed their mind.
Yesterday, Canonical announced that, considering the huge response over the weekend, they will “build selected 32-bit i386 packages for Ubuntu 19.10 and 20.04 LTS”.
We will put in place a community process to determine which 32-bit packages are needed to support legacy software, and can add to that list post-release if we miss something that is needed.
According to Canonical, the question of supporting 32-bit packages and libraries had been discussed amongst the community, including Valve, since 2014 and they hadn’t received much of an outcry about it so they assumed it would be okay. Some sort of four year miscommunication perhaps?
Going forward, they will be working with WINE, Ubuntu Studio, and the gaming community on how containers can be used to address the eventual demise of 32-bit, because it will have to die at some point. Canonical also pointed out the risks of continuing to use 32-bit software, as it is a target for attacks, due to limited testing, and many of the mitigations for vulnerabilities such as Spectre and Meltdown are unavailable for 32-bit systems.