Docker Desktop 3.0.0: Smaller, Faster Releases

Stephen Turner

Dec 10 2020

Today with the release of Docker Desktop 3.0.0, we’re launching several major improvements to the way we distribute Docker Desktop. From now on we will be providing all updates as deltas from the previous version, which will reduce the size of a typical update from hundreds of MB to tens of MB. We will also download the update in the background so that all you need to do to benefit from it is to restart Docker Desktop. Finally, we are removing the Stable and Edge channels, and moving to a single release stream for all users.

Changes Based on Your Feedback

Many of you have given us feedback that our updates are too large, and too time consuming to download and install. Until now, we only provided complete installers, which meant that each update required downloading a file of several hundred MB. But from now on we will be providing all updates as deltas from the previous version, which will typically be only tens of MB per release.

We have also heard that updates are offered at an inconvenient time, when you launch Docker Desktop or when you reboot your machine, which are times that you want to start work not spend several minutes downloading a new version. Now that updates are so small we are able to download them in the background, and only require a restart to start using the new version

At the same time, we are removing the Stable and Edge channels, and moving to a single, cumulative release stream for all users. The two channels date from the very early days of Docker Desktop and were designed to give users a choice between getting the very latest features at the cost of some instability, or a slower but more stable version. 

But in practice, lots of users have told us that the system was confusing and inflexible. It was hard to know when bug fixes would reach each version, making users confused why they were still seeing an issue when we said it had been fixed. Fixes arrived in Stable too slowly, but users didn’t want to switch to Edge to receive the fix they were waiting for because it meant resetting their containers and images. Furthermore, Edge meant accepting frequent, large updates from then on, which users found disruptive. Also, the two channels used parallel but separate version numbers, leading to confusion about which version was ‘later’.

In summary, many users have told us that they find the two channels unfamiliar and confusing. “I don’t want to have to choose between stability and a fix for my bug, I want both” was typical of the comments we heard from our users. So going forward there will be only a single release stream that everyone will share. It will have all the latest fixes and experimental features so that everyone can benefit from them as early as possible. Updates will be cumulative so that there is no longer any confusion about which features have reached which builds. When we introduce an experimental feature, it will be available to everyone, but we will make it clear that it is experimental.

Our vision is that you no longer have to choose between prompt fixes and low maintenance: from now on everyone will have the latest features and fixes, while receiving updates that are an order of magnitude smaller and are applied automatically.

Join the Docker Developer Preview Program

We know that many of our Edge users like to get even earlier notice of upcoming features and play with them before they’re ready for general consumption. For you, we’re today opening up our developer preview program more widely. It was previously by invitation only, but with the removal of the Edge channel, we’d like to invite anyone interested to join and get access to new features before they reach a public release. 

And today we have released to our preview users two exciting features that we know a lot of people have been waiting for: Docker Desktop on Apple M1 chips, and GPU support on WSL 2. To find out more about the Docker Developer Preview Program, read my colleague William Quiviger’s blog post.

The Year in Desktop Innovation

2020 has been the busiest year ever for Docker Desktop, in line with our commitment at the end of last year to refocus our business on developers. During 2020, we have released:

There’s lots more to come next year, but we are proud to label this release as version 3, and we invite you to download Docker Desktop 3.0.0 today and try it out!