> And the reason for wanting a i386 userspace is ... ?
Proprietary programs that are only available in i386 versions.
Or, compliance processes with red tape, needed to approve the architectures switch for an approved installation.
Or, customers with years-old installations, that don't fuzz up the money for the switch project and the associated test costs. (I have one of those customers quite right now.)
> Any sane distribution can run i386 binaries just fine on x86_64.
That's not my experience. Quite often, proper distribution-supported packages (i.e., not roll-your-own installations) for i386 shared libraries in x86_64 base installations are missing. I.e., one has a 32bit program, and no vendor-supported package is available with its needed libraries that can be installed.
And that's because the base install with a 64bit kernel installs 64bit userspace as well. With that come 64bit shared libs packages. Sometimes the distribution offers parallel installs of 32bit shared libs packages. (E.g., -32bit packages from openSUSE. But even there not all shared libs are made available for parallel installs. And no luck at all on RHEL.) Replacing the installed 64bit shared libs packages with their 32bit versions conflicts often with the 64bit userspace that got installed initially.
Of course, I can run my own installation and reconfigure the distribution completely. But that was actually exactly the point that I want to make: I have to do that and it's not readily available. And that's the reason why there is no uptake of the demand that Steven made.