Experiments status + experiments proposal

Jonathan Protzenko jonathan.protzenko at gmail.com
Sun Apr 10 21:03:35 UTC 2011

In this mail, I'm doing a status roundup of _current experiments_. I'd 
like to know what is the status of some experiments that showed no 
recent activity. I also suggest two more experiments that are, imho, 
simple enough that we could try to land them in the 3.3 timeframe.

        *Some big experiments of mine*

_Thunderbird Conversations_ is the most active experiment right now, 
although the user base is quite low (~500 users for its current version, 
the other 6k users are stuck on a one-year-old version for the 3.1 
series of Thunderbird). It's stable, feature-rich, and provides what I 
think is a good replacement for the standard message reader. There are 
some obscure prefs that it still needs to respect, but honestly, I don't 
think that's very important, and these obscure prefs probably shouldn't 
even exist. The main issue right now is performance, and to achieve 
better performance, it will require an overhaul of gloda (the 
oft-discussed gloda-ng). This overhaul might happen this summer if I 
find the time. Otherwise, it will have to wait. This means no immediate 
plans to land this.

_Compose in a tab_ is making progress, although at a slow pace. It is 
such a massive undertaking that it will probably require more than just 
one person working on it to make it happen, that is, if we want to make 
it happen, and I'm still not sure of that :-). So no plans for landing 
there either.

        *Unknown status*

I don't know what are the current plans for:
- _Mute Thread._
- _Thunderbird Sync (a.k.a. Weave for Thunderbird)._
- _Mailing list manager._

Could anyone give some status update regarding these? Are there plans to 
land them? Improve them? Keep them as addons?

        *Experiments slated for landing*

Jim (:squib) has been doing fantastic work on the _account summary and 
folder summary_ patches. These experiments have been revived: they've 
been lying there for quite some time, but there was no one to pick them 
up. IIRC, Jim said it required a whole lot of work to make this work 
properly, and I think he expects to land this in time for 3.4 rather 
than 3.3.

_OpenSearch_ and _GetAnAccount_ are two addons that are expected to land 
within the 3.3 timeframe. That's awesome. I think mconley's excellent 
work on Ubuntu integration is expected to land in 3.3. Can we do more? I 
believe the answer is yes!

        *Suggestions for new experiments*

1) A *very* cool addon created by davida is _webtabs_ (build at 
http://jonathan.xulforum.org/files/webtabs@momo.xpi, source at 
http://hg.mozilla.org/users/dascher_mozilla.com/webtabs/). It allows you 
to register some websites, and have a small favicon appear for each one 
of them in the tab bar, next to the quickfilter button. Clicking the 
favicon opens a content tab for the given website. I've been using it 
for months and it works just perfectly.

I think that experiment is *great*. I also think it is simple enough 
that we can have some hopes of landing it in the Thunderbird 3.3 
timeframe. I'd love to volunteer to do that, i.e. clean up the code, fix 
bugs, and have this happen. From what I saw in the code, this sounds 

(screenshot of the webtabs experiment)

How does that sound to you? I feel this could be a very valuable 
addition to Thunderbird. Do other people feel the same way? Is it 
realistic to expect this for Thunderbird 3.3?

2) Another idea of mine that I've been playing with is _RSS Tab_ 
(screenshot at http://twitpic.com/4hxz6j/full, source at 
https://github.com/protz/Rss-tab, build at 
It adds a rss button next to the webtabs buttons (see screenshot above), 
and gives a dashboard view for your RSS feeds. I think this is a 
low-effort, high-value direction. That would give a more modern feel to 
the RSS part of Thunderbird. Although the RSS (a.k.a. NewsBlog) backend 
is in a pretty unpleasant state, this could still make things cooler 
with Thunderbird's UI. I'd love to work more on this, but I think I 
could use help from someone who's a real UI developer, and who can help 
with things such as reordering feeds through drag-and-drop, etc. That 
would require fixing a couple bugs related to unread count for RSS feeds 
to make sure it all works smoothly.


I'd love to hear your thoughts about i) the "unknown status" experiments 
and ii) my other suggestions. Thanks for reading this long email,

jonathan (:protz)

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