Governance and Release Model updates

Kent James kent at
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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