The complaints of Ubuntu Steamers and Linux gamers evidently didn’t go unnoticed. Canonical has announced that it will be building select 32-bit i386 packages for Ubuntu 19.10 and 20.04 LTS, a reversal of its original plan to drop 32-bit x86 support completely.
After the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS release we had extensive threads on the ubuntu-devel list and also consulted Valve in detail on the topic. None of those discussions raised the passions we’ve seen here, so we felt we had sufficient consensus for the move in Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. We do think it’s reasonable to expect the community to participate and to find the right balance between enabling the next wave of capabilities and maintaining the long tail.
The implication is that Steam and Wine will truck on as normal. While they’ll be supported in the immediate future, Canonical warns that 32-bit must be dropped eventually for security reasons.
There is real risk to anybody who is running a body of software that gets little testing. The facts are that most 32-bit x86 packages are hardly used at all. That means fewer eyeballs, and more bugs. Software continues to grow in size at the high end, making it very difficult to even build new applications in 32-bit environments. You’ve heard about Spectre and Meltdown – many of the mitigations for those attacks are unavailable to 32-bit systems.