No, that’s not “it” for Thunderbird…

(Disclaimer: I’m an employee for Mozilla Corp, who works full-time on Thunderbird development. These opinions are my own.)

Today, through various channels, it was announced that continued innovation on Thunderbird is not a top priority for Mozilla.

Now before you all go running around with your heads chopped off saying things like, “Welp, that’s it for Thunderbird!”, or “We’d better fork that mutha!”, stop for a second, and read this.

Thunderbird is not dead.

Not by a long shot.

Please don’t overreact.

We’re simply not going to pour resources into trying to “innovate” on Thunderbird. Users will still be getting an email client that answers to nobody but them. Users will still benefit from stability, performance and security updates from Mozilla. And their mail will continue to land in their inbox, just as it always has.

So please, relax. It’s all good. Let’s not make a mountain out of a mole hill.

I’d also like to ask those people talking about forking Thunderbird… why? Why would you do that, instead of contributing to the core project? You’d be cutting yourself off from us, the people with experience developing Thunderbird, who can help you with your projects. Work with us. We’d love to have you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to continue testing some kick-ass contributor code. This new Australis default theme is going to blow your mind…

27 thoughts on “No, that’s not “it” for Thunderbird…

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  6. Lori

    Sometimes forking is good. Libreoffice is good. Mariadb is good. But Mozilla is not Oracle.

    I’d write an add-on for Thunderbird, but I couldn’t find a legible tutorial. Also, what is the Thunderbird analog of Firefox’s addon-sdk, or does that apply also somehow to Thunderbird? Is there a way to use Mozilla’s Add-on Builder for Thunderbird, particularly in a way that would allow me to test things by simply pressing the eyeball button?

    Also, is there a way I can click web links on Thunderbird but Thunderbird remains the active window?

    Having left Liferea for Thunderbird (which I use primarily for feed-reading) I’m glad to hear Thunderbird isn’t quite dead, which I’m pretty sure Liferea is.

  7. Adrian Smith

    Thanks, Mike, that’s reassuring.
    Can you tell me about the Lightning plugin, will that survive?

  8. Charles Marcus

    Having reserved judgement until after I actually read the entire posting, I, for one – as someone who has been very vocal (and often critical – so much so in a few cases that I got booted off of one or more developer lists) – am actually very excited about this.

    On more than one occasion, I have made the statement that ‘Mozilla should focus on *stability* and fixing many of the long standing bugs, rather than pushing shiny new features that it is questionable that many users want or will use.

    So, if this means that certain long standing issues – like the buggy HTML editor, buggy IMAP behavior, the MORK based Address Book, maildir vs mbox for local storage, full integration of the Calendar (Lightning extension), as just a few examples – will finally get some much needed attention and may even actually finally be permanently *fixed*, then I say that this is a very *good* thing for Thunderbird.

    For me, Thunderbird is my EMAIL client. I have many different email addresses, all configured as IMAP, and being able to work with all of them in one excellent UI (heavily customized from the default UI, another big reason I love Thunderbird), from multiple computers (and even computers on different OSs like my Moms Mac and my Linux box at home), all with the same Profile which can be backed up from and restored to any of these different platforms (using MozBackup) is an incredibly powerful tool, and I am so thankful for and grateful to the Mozilla developers (both Moz employees and Community members) for providing this tool for all these years (I too started using Thunderbird a long time ago, back at about version 0.8)…

    So, for those improperly proclaiming the death of Thunderbird, I say…

    Thunderbird is dead! Long Live Thunderbird!

  9. Dave

    Thanks for the clarification. There is still plenty of room for innovation in the email desktop client I would have thought – Thunderbird’s fantastic search, and FileLink features would certainly qualify for a start.

  10. Eric-tile

    Please don’t abandon updates to Thunderbird 10 ESR. I’ve found that the more recent versions don’t answer to nobody but the users, as you put it. It’s impossible to revert the Menu Bar to being directly under the title bar, like it is in virtually every other Windows program.

    These sort of changes have been a worrying trend since the introduction of the rapid release cycle. Mozilla seems to be introducing more and more interface changes that the user cannot revert without addons. I frankly don’t care whether or not the ability to revert is hidden within about:config or the like, just as long as I have the ability. I’ve heard many times that having a plethora of addons can slow down Firefox and Thunderbird, so I’d rather not add more due to Mozilla’s strong arming.

    Ultimately I’m glad that there will be a feature freeze on Thunderbird.

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  13. Roberta

    Non abbandonerò mai Thinderbird, al massimo me lo tengo così. Anzi, a dire la verità, lo preferivo persino prima, quando era assai più leggero e con meno funzionalità integrate, così che ognuno poteva configurarlo a seconda delle proprie reali necessità. Non dimentichiamo che le enormi potenzialità del software non vengono mai usate al 100% da nessuno, e questa eterna rincorsa verso programmi più complessi anziché più agili, va a scapito delle risorse e del tempi del pc. Non amo i programmi “faccio tutto io”, preferisco gestire da me quello che voglio, ed è il motivo per cui ho abbandonato tanti anni fa Explorer e Outlook. W THINDERBIRD!!! Ciao

  14. rgloor

    Hi Mike
    What is going on with the new Address Book?
    (The one you were working on.)

    Thanks in advance for your response.

    Greetings from Switzerland,

  15. Paul Morris

    Firefox OS will have an HTML5+JS email app, and I would speculate that Mozilla will eventually also offer a version of it for use on the desktop, available for free from the Mozilla Marketplace. It would be a great flagship HTML5 app, demonstrating the viability of offline storage and offline use, etc.

    They would then have a single email-app codebase (cross-platform) for (1) the desktop, (2) their mobile Firefox OS, and (3) presumably other mobile platforms too (Android, iOS). You could use the same Mozilla email app on your computer and on your phone (and eventually tablet). As an HTML5 app it would easily tie into all the work on identity, social, contacts, sync, etc. that’s cooking.

    The code could also be used by ISPs (and self-hosters) to provide webmail interfaces.

    This approach also basically lines up with the earlier Raindrop labs project, which was web-based, and the focus on integration across products of the Kilimanjaro project.

    In the process they will get to start over rather than having to keep working with Thunderbird’s older codebase.

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  18. Pete Thrift

    I am a BIG fan of Thunderbird since I rediscovered it last year. I bought both a new desktop and laptop last fall, and made the awful mistake of investing $$$ in MS Outlook 2010 only to find it way too complex and cumbersome for home use.


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  20. Shane

    We use Thunderbird in a corporate environment. In fact we just switched 90% of the users to it in the last 8 months. We use it to connect to IMAP/Maildir. It is great! I am 90% happy with Thunderbird if it just gets security patches and maintenance. However, like other posters, I’d like to see Lightning integrated, or as an integrated option from the initial install.

    The only other things that I think it needs are the ability to sync intuitively and reliably between Thunderbird and PIMs, like Android phones, and Blackberry’s–especially the contacts. This is something that keeps me from fully deploying Thunderbird only in our enterprise.

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  22. VanillaMozilla

    No new features. That’s fine. In fact, it’s probably good. We don’t need new features to read mail, and besides, new features means new bugs. So this is a retreat to the essentials–right?

    But what’s this about yet another new theme? Meanwhile, there are data loss bugs, in which users can lose their address book or all their mail. Wtf?

    Please, Thunderbird is the best we’ve got. In fact, it’s probably the only thing around for cross-platform use with a shared profile. Can’t we work on serious bugs first, and THEN work on bling?

  23. Shane

    I use Thunderbird for 98% of my enterprise users. It, along with Postfix and IMAP are a great affordable alternative to Outlook and Exchange. I’d just like to have a way to sync contacts to iPod/iPad/Blackberry/Phones, etc from Thunderbird more easily and I’d love to see the Calendar integrated in a version and left out in another–download the one you want…Or just integrated–don’t use it if you don’t want to.

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