The current solutions involve packaging entire alternate runtimes in containerized environments. Flatpak, Snap, AppImage, Docker, and Steam: these all provide an app packaging mechanism that replaces most or all of the system’s runtime libraries, and they now all use containerization to accomplish this.
Flatpak calls itself “the future of application distribution”. I am not a fan. I’m going to outline here some of the technical, security and usability problems with Flatpak and others. I’ll try to avoid addressing “fixable” problems (like theming) and instead focus on fundamental problems inherent in their design. I aim to convince you that these are not the future of desktop Linux apps.
I fully agree. If you’re a Linux application developer, packaging your application up as an RPM and DEB is really all you need to do; you’ll cover by far the most desktop Linux users, and your code will most likely be packaged up by package maintainers of smaller package management systems as well. All these “solutions” just add additional layers of confusion, bloat, issues, and bugs that can be easily avoided by sticking to your distribution’s own package manager.
I simply avoid any application packaged up in any of these formats – with the exception of Steam – and move on to something from a developer who does understand and care about desktop Linux.