Governance and Release Model updates
kent at caspia.com
Sun Nov 4 21:00:42 UTC 2012
On 11/2/2012 6:45 PM, Blake Winton wrote:
> Which kind of brings me to my main point. Aceman, protz, jcranmer,
> rkent, do any of you actually want to be the module owners for
> Thunderbird, or would you rather continue fixing things and driving
> the direction of Thunderbird by doing the work you're interested in.
The short answer is that I am not currently interested in taking on a
"module ownership" position and its responsibilities.
Here's the longer answer.
I want Thunderbird to be a career, not a hobby. I am not motivated to
spend lots of my free time donating my experience "so that enterprises
can have free software" (which is the phrase that Mitchell Baker used in
our conversation, describing why it does not make sense for Mozilla to
donate significant funds to Thunderbird.) I don't really want to
discourage those who are so motivated, yet that is hard without being
completely silent about my own perspective. Still, I intend to spend
about 10 hours per week on public Thunderbird work, as my responsibility
to "give back" to the project, while I spend the bulk of my time on my
own extension work.
At this point, I am convinced that what is really needed is a rework in
direction for the mailnews client, allowing resources to be devoted to
1) enterprise-friendly options and features, 2) better compatibility
with the mobile and web space, 3) fixing old bugs, and 4) expanded
protocol capability beyond traditional IMAP. For that to happen, the
project management would need to really focus on developing income, as
we would need at least $1,000,000 per year to make any real progress.
This is not going to happen with an all-volunteer project - nor should
it happen that way, as "free (as in beer) software for enterprises" is
not a cause worthy of our efforts.
What is not clear is whether that is even possible given the current
market and product realities. JB is in the best position to know this,
and he really doubts it.
But what /is/ clear is that Mozilla (which also means "Thunderbird")
has no interest in this battle. For Thunderbird to even attempt this
direction would have significant risk and controversy, and that is
exactly the last thing that Mozilla wants for Thunderbird right now. The
culture is such that a minority of people opposed to a focus on income
generation would try to claim the moral high ground, and derail the
focus that would be needed. This is not intended as a criticism of
Mozilla, they have chosen their direction, Thunderbird is not it, and
they don't want to risk any problems in their other projects by being
forced to resolve basic values conflicts over Thunderbird's direction.
It's safer to just accept the status quo, even though that does not lead
to a vibrant future for Thunderbird.
So making progress, IMHO, would have to be done with a different
trademark that would protect Mozilla from the issues. (Two years ago, I
even the reserved the name "SwanFox" as a potential name for such an
alternate trademark.) But that removes the possibility of generating
income in the short term, which is tied to the Thunderbird brand. A fork
is not the answer, PostBox tried that and by my analysis is struggling
right now. Instead, you would want to "wrap" Thunderbird with alternate
packaging, support, and extensions, preserving compatibility with all of
the previous and future Thunderbird work and extensions. You also need
to maintain a sense of cooperation between the alternate brand and
Thunderbird, avoiding any appearance of an unfriendly split or coup.
None of this is easy.
So that is where I am at. Personally I am content with my current
direction, which is focusing my energies on developing the Exchange Web
Services capabilities for email, while putting in my fair share to make
sure that Thunderbird lives. So far, Thunderbird 18 and 19 seem to be
going just fine, which is encouraging. Yet I still have this lingering
sense that there is a missed opportunity here to develop a serious
player in the communications client market using the Mozilla base code.
Perhaps if we had 10 people seriously interested in pursuing this, then
we could make progress.
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