Directions for Thunderbird

Ben Bucksch ben.bucksch at
Sat Apr 2 07:04:41 UTC 2011

Hey all,

I would like to suggest some directions for the future of Thunderbird. 
It's a high-level view, in the lines of "If I had to make the future of 
Thunderbird, what would I do?"

Currently, there is no real open-source proposal for email in companies, 
at all. Companies need a calendar, and we have code in form of 
Lightning, but we didn't integrate it. There are interesting proposals 
from the server side, open-source shops creating an integrated server 
for email and calendar. While we'll have a hard time to make a dent in 
Outlook and Exchange, we should at least offer something that companies 
*wanting* to use open-source can use. With the existing code, plus a 
community, I think it wouldn't be too hard to tackle.

I personally would build Thunderbird into the chat direction, using 
Jabber, with extensions to reach many people at once. Twitter and 
Facebook are popular in part because it's easy to make quick small 
messages to many people. Facebook and GMail both support Jabber, so 
there are servers and there is interoperability with the popular 
services. As for code, I recently wrote an XMPP client protocol 
implementation using chrome JS and nsISocketTransport for a customer, I 
just have to convince them to open-source it. As UI, we could use code 
from InstantBird.

I spend a good deal of my day reading newspapers, on the web. In the 
browser. I am still lacking an RSS client that's working well for me. 
Thunderbird would be in a very good position for that. Myk's prototype 
that he showed at Firefox Summit 2008 was perfect, IMHO.

Myk's prototype also really innovated in the way messages are prevented, 
making email reading a lot more efficient, in a way that will be hard 
for most webmail.  *Please* please pick this up, including his 
dramatically different user interface and code design.

When Linus switches to GMail web interface, surely not because he likes 
webmail, but because it's more efficient - that shows that we have grace 
technical deficiencies. We need to analyze those and swiftly fix them. 
Andrew Sutherland has been great for that.

Andrew also likes to visualize things. *Please* let him innovate freely, 
free him from any barriers (including review), and give him assistants. 
I think of how he wanted to use drag&drop to select messages, show 
relations etc.. He can innovate things for TB that will make people 
"wow", which will be highly efficient in everyday usage, and which will 
be hard for webmail to copy.

Dev process
For the "swiftly" part, I feel like Thunderbird's development process 
makes it impossible to contribute. When MoMo was created, with Mark 
Banner, Andrew Sutherland, dmose, and many others, I felt a new, 
innovative spirit. But when trying to contribute, it turned out to be 
impossible. Innovations (including contributions with 1000 lines of 
code) are stopped short to a screeching halt in their tracks by the 
review nit-picking procedures and test requirements. I for myself have 
concluded that it's impossible to contribute, although would have liked 
to. This must change for TB to be alive, which is a pre-condition for it 
to survive.

I also think we should do more advocacy. Facebook sure does make efforts 
to advocate its use, the "like it" buttons are partially just there to 
let Facebook be in people's face. It's good that F1 is countering that. 
Be we should reach out and educate users about the advantages of our 

Hope this high-level view from me starts a few constructive thoughts and 
that they'll be put into action.

Thank you,


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