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Mozilla doesn't focus on Thunderbird anymore

Discussion about official Mozilla Thunderbird builds
sansibar
 
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Post Posted July 26th, 2007, 12:58 am

From the the weblog of Mitchell Baker:

Email Call to Action

Do you think email is important part of Internet life? Are you interested in seeing something interesting and exciting happen in the mail space? Believe that Thunderbird provides a much-needed option for open source email alternatives and want to see it get more attention on its own? Long to see something more innovative than Thunderbird in the mail space happen?

So does Mozilla.

Are you someone who could contribute to such an effort? Do you have expertise and a desire to be involved in an innovative mail effort and / or a focused Thunderbird effort? If so, Mozilla would like to hear from you.

Thunderbird

Mozilla has been supporting Thunderbird as a product since the beginning of the Foundation. The result is a good, solid product that provides an open alternative for desktop mail. However, the Thunderbird effort is dwarfed by the enormous energy and community focused on the web, Firefox and the ecosystem around it. As a result, Mozilla doesn't focus on Thunderbird as much as we do browsing and Firefox and we don't expect this to change in the foreseeable future. We are convinced that our current focus - delivering the web, mostly through browsing and related services - is the correct priority. At the same time, the Thunderbird team is extremely dedicated and competent, and we all want to see them do as much as possible with Thunderbird.

We have concluded that we should find a new, separate organizational setting for Thunderbird; one that allows the Thunderbird community to determine its own destiny.

Mozilla is exploring the options for an organization specifically focused on serving Thunderbird users. A separate organization focused on Thunderbird will both be able to move independently and will need to do so to deepen community and user involvement. We're not yet sure what this organization will look like. We've thought about a few different options. I've described them below. If you've got a different idea please let us know.

Option 1. Create a new non-profit organization analogous to the Mozilla Foundation - a Thunderbird foundation. If it turns out Thunderbird generates a revenue model from the product as Firefox does, then a Thunderbird foundation could follow the Mozilla Foundation model and create a subsidiary.

This model probably offers the maximum independence for Thunderbird. But it is also the most organizationally complex. There is lots of overhead to create a new foundation, find good board members, recreate the administrative load. When we started the Mozilla Foundation Mitch Kapor, our-then business development lead and I spent a bunch of time on this work. The current Thunderbird developers don't have this level of business assistance. If there is revenue that requires a subsidiary then the overhead goes up even further. There is serious concern that this will detract from serving Thunderbird users, since the core Thunderbird team is small and developer-focused.

Option 2. Create a new subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation for Thunderbird. This has less overhead, although it still requires a new company that serves the mission of the Mozilla Foundation. In this case the Mozilla Foundation board and personnel would remain involved in Thunderbird. Thunderbird would continue to need to be balanced and prioritized with Mozilla's focus on delivering the web through Firefox, its ecosystem and the Open Web as the platform. The Thunderbird effort may therefore still end up with less focus and less flexibility.

Option 3. Thunderbird is released as a community project much like SeaMonkey, and a small independent services and consulting company is formed by the Thunderbird developers to continue development and care for Thunderbird users. Many open source projects use this model, it could be simpler and more effective than a Mozilla Foundation subsidiary. However, creating this as a non-profit would be extremely difficult. Running a services company as an independent taxable company is the simplest operational answer. We would need to figure out how such a company relates to the Thunderbird product itself. What's the best way for such a company to release a product? How does that relate to the community project that stays within Mozilla?

We don't know the best answer yet. And we don't expect to without a broad public discussion and involvement, which we hope this message will trigger. Today someone suggested to me that perhaps there is another foundation that might be a good home for Thunderbird. I hadn't thought of this; it's a creative idea.

If you've got thoughts or - even better - want to get involved, please let us know. Some suggestions for making sure Mozilla is aware of your comments are at the end of this post.

Broader Mail Initiative

We would also like to find contributors committed to creating and implementing a new vision of mail. We would like to have a roadmap that brings wild innovation, increasing richness and fundamental improvements to mail. And equally importantly, we would like to find people with relevant expertise who would join with Mozilla to make something happen.

If we can see a path to an innovative mail initiative in addition to supporting existing Thunderbird users, then we are interested in doing so. If we find the best way to improve mail is incremental development of Thunderbird as already planned, then we've learned something extremely valuable as well.

Mozilla has a range of resources - funds, code, etc. - that can be applied to this problem. We're looking for people with expertise, vision and leadership capabilities. If you are such a person, or know of such people, please let us know.

Discussion

If you're interested in these topics, let us know. The web is great at distributed discussions, let's see what we think about mail. I'll moderate comments and trackback here quickly. If you want to make absolutely sure that Mozilla can find your thoughts easily, feel free to leave a pointer to them here. There's also a page for each discussion on the mozillla wiki, although they require log-in to edit. So if you have a mozilla wiki account or are willing to create one, you can find these pages at the locations below. Go to the "Discussion" tab at the top to add your thoughts or pointers back to your posts.

http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/mitchell/
http://wiki.mozilla.org/MailNews:Future_of_Mail

mscott

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Post Posted July 26th, 2007, 9:50 am

Thunderbirds are Go!

JoeS

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Post Posted July 26th, 2007, 7:12 pm

Pretty shocking news. And I guess a little scarry for Scott and David.
On the other hand, not entirely unexpected here, considering the lack of resources (manpower) provided for developement my MoCo, and the release delays in deference to Firefox needs.
Hang in there Scott and David, talent, innovation, and dedication can prevail over simple profit motivation.
You both certainly qualify.
JoeS Testing current Thunderbird trunk builds WinXP SP2+
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mscott

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Post Posted July 26th, 2007, 8:09 pm

Thanks for the positive words and encouragement Joe.
Thunderbirds are Go!

casper1975
 
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Post Posted July 26th, 2007, 8:22 pm

All I will say that is will be a interesting time for Thunderbird, I am a user of SeaMonkey & more people are working on the mail portion of the application known as SeaMonkey than Thunderbird.

Ranessin
 
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Post Posted July 27th, 2007, 12:04 am

I use Thunderbird since the time it was still called Minotaur (and the Mozilla Mail part before). It was plainly obvious that Thunderbird was neglected for a long time by the Foundation. The few developers working on it do a stellar job, but there is only so much so few people can do. I hope that it will be a change for the better, but I'm not very optimistic.

Vacilando

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Post Posted July 27th, 2007, 3:16 am

:-(
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unityone
 
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Post Posted July 27th, 2007, 7:12 am

Perhaps another option is to bring Eudora/Penelope resources together with TB?

Vacilando

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Post Posted July 27th, 2007, 7:35 am

Why not merge TB with Eudora/Penelope? Why should Mozilla continue to develop both TB and Eudora separately? Given that Thunderbird alone is hardly surviving it seems like a waste of resources.
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Eyes-Only

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Post Posted July 27th, 2007, 9:10 am

Good Luck Scott and David! If anyone can pull Thunderbird through the days which lay ahead it'll be the two of you as you've each shared your dynamic qualities which have helped to have been the driving force and spirit behind this project.

Unlike many who see "doom and gloom" in these current events, I see nothing but positive advances, exponential growth, the implimentation of many requested popular features, an unprecedented number of bugs quashed, and an over-all better experience for we Thunderbird users out here. I see this happening Scott because if the 3rd option is chosen then the project will have a far freer atmosphere in which these developments may transpire at a rapid pace. Just take a look at SeaMonkey and see how much things have been allowed to change there! And that could be happening here with the likes of you and David at the helm---and many more unseen heroes for sure as I don't mean to be leaving others out!

Keep the faith Scott & David. You've built the better mousetrap here. :)

Just for the record: I started using Thunderbird back when it was Minotaur as well, made it my default at 0.2a---and have NEVER lost any email because of it. Granted that I use SeaMonkey, and hence SeaMail, a lot, yet the default settings of all my desktops (Linux) has always been that "Bird of Thunder"!

Keep looking up Scott, David, and everyone. The best is yet to come!

Amicalement,

Eyes-Only
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Vacilando

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Post Posted July 27th, 2007, 9:51 am

I wish I could share your optimism, Eyes-Only. My TB2 does not work, I am forced to use a 13 month old, buggy beta version ( see e.g. http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?t=532003 ).

I fear this announcement means that I, and other people in the same situation, cannot expect any help anytime soon!
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[BISI]
 
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Post Posted July 27th, 2007, 9:55 am

Vacilando wrote:Why not merge TB with Eudora/Penelope? Why should Mozilla continue to develop both TB and Eudora separately? Given that Thunderbird alone is hardly surviving it seems like a waste of resources.


Penelope is just an extension for Thunderbird at the moment and it is developed differently than other mozilla projects (no review process, smaller community, far less communication between qualcomm developers and the community, very few upstream patches, etc.).
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Vacilando

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Post Posted July 27th, 2007, 10:01 am

[BISI] wrote:Penelope is just an extension for Thunderbird at the moment and it is developed differently than other mozilla projects (no review process, smaller community, far less communication between qualcomm developers and the community, very few upstream patches, etc.).


Are you sure it is just an extension? At http://wiki.mozilla.org/Penelope it appears Mozilla took over Eudora development and call it Penelope. The page says: "We intend to produce a version of Eudora that is open source and based on Mozilla and Thunderbird. It's *not* our intention to compete with Thunderbird; rather, we want to complement it."
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[BISI]
 
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Post Posted July 27th, 2007, 10:23 am

The team is currently working on an extension that remaps keys and provides some other UI functionality. The current version is available on the Penelope Extensions page.


That's from the same page. The extension dates back to late November 2006.
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Post Posted July 27th, 2007, 10:32 am

[BISI] wrote:
Vacilando wrote:Why not merge TB with Eudora/Penelope? Why should Mozilla continue to develop both TB and Eudora separately? Given that Thunderbird alone is hardly surviving it seems like a waste of resources.


Penelope is just an extension for Thunderbird at the moment and it is developed differently than other mozilla projects (no review process, smaller community, far less communication between qualcomm developers and the community, very few upstream patches, etc.).


http://wiki.mozilla.org/Penelope

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