The future of 32-bit x86 (i386) support in Debian GNU/Linux is looking dim. Following a recent Debian developer sprint, it was announced that the Debian kernel, installer, and image teams will likely cease supporting i386 “in the near future.”
According to developer Paul Gevers, there will still be two options for running i386 after support is dropped: 1) as a multi-arch install on an otherwise 64-bit AMD system, and 2) in an i386 chroot environment on another architecture. Debian doesn’t plan to make i386 a “partial architecture” like Ubuntu has done. Maintainers can still drop i386 support after coordinating reverse-dependency builds.
So while i386 won’t be completely removed from Debian any time soon, dedicated support for running the distribution solely on 32-bit x86 hardware is going away. This is unsurprising given the steady drop of i386 support in other Linux distributions over the years and the increasing focus on 64-bit systems. The removal of i386 support will likely happen incrementally over the next couple years leading up to the release of Debian 13.