Does Thunderbird face irrelevancy?

Discussion of general topics about Mozilla Thunderbird
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Post Posted October 21st, 2018, 4:25 am

This is not a Reddit rant. This is a serious, deeply felt analysis from someone who has been using Thunderbird for more than 20 years, first on Windows and then on Xubuntu, and has the utmost respect for what it once was. I have fixed corrupt profiles, saved botched installations, and restored lost mail folders. And I understand the situation today – no money, volunteers who have other, more important things to do with their lives, and the hand-me-down technology that Mozilla gives you.

But at some point, you must face reality -- you’re making a product that fewer and fewer people want to use, and that has nothing to do with the decline of e-mail clients in general. Typically, designers design a product that the public wants to use. Thunderbird, increasingly, is being designed so that it’s easy to support. This is the exact opposite of what should be happening. Who makes cars that people don’t want to buy? I may understand why this is, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Consider how difficult it is to retrieve a lost password or register for this site, and you’ll see what I mean. Six letters?

And, no, this is not just about the decision to end support for most of the add-ons and extensions that made Thunderbird the best email client in the world. Because it was – a unified inbox and the ability to easily copy profiles to a different installation being just two of the reasons.

And, again, given what Mozilla has done, you didn’t have much choice with add-ons. But you should have been open and transparent about what was going to happen, and not let most of us find out when we updated to v. 60 and the app broke.

In fact, Thunderbird breaks every time I update it, regardless of the add-ons. Can you imagine the panic I feel when it updates and the welcome screen doesn’t show the calendar or most of my e-mail folders? I can’t remember the last time Lightning worked correctly after an update. Either it didn’t install at all, or it didn’t install my calendar data. In fact, I have to spend three or four hours tweaking things to get Thunderbird to where I need it after every update.

So no more. I’m going to switch, and if I have to pay for something like Shift, then I’ll pay for it. Because if I pay for it, they may listen to the people who use the product. Which, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to the case with Thunderbird anymore.


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Post Posted October 21st, 2018, 10:28 am

But you should have been open and transparent about what was going to happen, and not let most of us find out when we updated to v. 60 and the app broke.

Except we're not Mozilla. See the disclaimer in the bottom box in the right column of this page.

Can't say that I've seen any issues in updating Thunderbird through the last several versions (under Windows, not Linux) so, in general, I'd answer your subject question with "No. I don't think so at all."


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Post Posted October 21st, 2018, 10:36 am

Thunderbird still uses Mozilla as its legal home but its a independent community project that has enough money now (due to donations) to have hired at least seven employees. However, the project is still very dependent on the Mozilla Toolkit, whose functionality is driven by Firefox's needs, and has deprecated technologies that Thunderbird still uses.

They are suffering from poor technical decisions made beforehand (making it expensive to introduce significant changes), and the difficulty of reducing their dependencies upon Firefox without doing a complete rewrite. So its going to be a bumpy ride for while. I disagree with many of their decisions but I think its unfair to say they're not listening to their users.

Most of Thunderbird's add-ons are old and unmaintained. While some of them will continue to work due to not using many of the APIs I think you're going to see the number of usable add-ons drastically reduce to mainly just the ones that are popular enough that somebody will maintain them (not necessarily the original author). The add-ons breaking is mainly a side effect of deciding not to freeze the Mozilla Toolkit, and use the current version. In a few cases its been because they decided it was counterproductive to keep supporting an old API. Long term it looks like they are planning on enhancing the WebExtensions API to add lots of mail specific functionality.

There are over 20 million users so periodically you will run across somebody having a problem with almost every feature, but the unified inbox and the ability to easily copy profiles seems to work for most users. You didn't mention whether you are using a Mozilla Linux build or one provided by a Linux distro. That can make a difference as Ubuntu for example is known to sometimes add bug fixes from nightly builds that the Thunderbird developers don't think is ready for production builds yet.

If you decide to give Thunderbird another chance try using ReminderFox instead of Lightning as your calendar. It has far less functionality but has the basics and is stable/mature. The "party line" is that you always need to use the latest version due to security fixes but in reality as long as you are careful on what attachments you open, don't use extensions like ThunderBrowse that try to turn Thunderbird into a browser, and don't enable display attachments inline you could safely stick with Thunderbird 52.9.1 for a year or two while things settle down. The critical security bugs that they find are potential bugs that don't appear to be widely exploited due to Thunderbird's small market share (compared to Outlook + Apple mail + webmail) and the success of cheap generic attacks (attachments with malware etc.)

I'm used to hearing about regression bugs but your problems seem excessive. I think you would have been better off asking for help here before deciding to switch to another email client. Or if you don't want to ask for help here, ask in the official support forum at . Can we help?

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Post Posted October 30th, 2018, 3:11 am ... easenotes/ (and all the v60 release notes) has a link to help with Calendar issues. You might have a look.

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