So apparently my comment was worth deleting since I didn't have time to login. So I'll say it again.
No-one wants to work on a distribution independent package format. Why? Because the only people who are in a position to actually launch such an initiative are the people who actually have semi-popular distros. Those same people are the ones who want to stick with their custom packaging format because it works for them and their distro.
The current most popular idea seems to be "let's build UIs on top of it so people don't notice the difference!" What they miss is that this doesn't actually address the underlying issue, it just masks it so it's harder to see.
Let's face it. Independent package management systems will never happen. Ever. No-one half-important in the community wants to write the code, and even when someone does write the code (like I did with AppTools), no-one else wants to contribute to it. Or promote it. Or have anything to do with it.
This is why I've given up on Linux as a platform for shipping binaries to. You want to run a program on Linux? Compile it yourself. Everyone who runs Linux knows how to do that anyway.