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BTRFS Should Be Default

I have been a strong proponent of btrfs for years. I will argue until I'm blue in the face that it is the absolute best file system on Linux for most regular situations (RAID is obviously the biggest exception). The history of btrfs instability is overblown in my experience. Oh, it happened, but from my usage of it and those of my friends who have used it, it is just as stable as ext4 these days. Note that I'm fully aware that this previous statement is the height of "well, it works for me...", and that I usually hate that type of statement. I know that no software is bug-free. But the same holds true for EXT4. It isn't bug-free, either.

Most people don't care what file system they use. Most people just use whatever is default, and that is almost certainly ext4. Defaults matter because they are almost always what is used by the majority of people. It's why people use Microsoft Edge on Windows—not because it's better, but because it is already installed. EXT4 is the same. You know, without the bloatware.

I really do think, however, that more distros should use btrfs as the default. I really wish that this could happen. Especially on distros that are more meant for tinkerers. Distros like Arch, Gentoo, and such. These distros are perfect for btrfs because they allow for the holy grail of fuck-up reversal: snapshots.

Accidentally delete your /etc folder? Boom! Fixed.

Update fuck up your MESA? Boom! Fixed.

There are so many situations when something goes wrong or the user screws the pooch, and btrfs snapshots solve those problems by creating a way to go back. Back to when the system was working.

There are obviously a few downsides here. First, most people will point to immutable distributions as the solution here. Immutables have this functionality built in (often because they use btrfs), and we all know that immutable distros are the future.

The other thing people say when arguing against this is that snapshots are not user-friendly. And, unfortunately, they're right. In order for snapshots to work, you still have to mess around with Grub. That's where you select the snapshot to use, and most people don't even know what GRUB is, let alone how to navigate it. It's not hard; it's just not something people have a lot of experience with.

Also, people have a hard time learning the difference between a snapshot and a backup. They really are not the same thing, at least not by default. Sure, you can use btrfs snapshots in your home directory, but it's not really the magic use case. Snapshots are at their best when they offer a way to save the underlying bits of a distro. This offers a way to travel back in time to make the system work again.

In order for btrfs and snapshots to become a built-in norm on more distros, they will need to be more user-friendly.

Tools like Timeshift or Snapper aren't really that great for noobs, because they're too complicated. For this to work, the tools need to be built into the system settings. And that's why we're not in a world where this will probably ever happen for most "noob" distros, or even those more focused on the non-noob. It requires a lot of effort on the part of the DE maintainer, and they have to accommodate for that pesky default: ext4. Otherwise, the distros have to do it, and their argument is likely: ext4 works, why change?

The benefits of btrfs are obvious to those who try it, but between the stigma of instability-past and the lack of user-friendly built-in tools, it probably will remain a file system that only us "pro users" use. And that is disappointing. I think that a lot of people would benefit from having access to snapshots.

What file system do you use? Have you ever used btrfs?