Governance and Release Model updates

Kent James kent at
Fri Nov 9 23:01:27 UTC 2012

On 11/8/2012 6:27 AM, Gervase Markham wrote:
> On 04/11/12 21:00, Kent James wrote:
>> 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.
> You may be right.
> If you think Postbox is failing at this, what makes you think another 
> effort would succeed?

That's the key question isn't it? To believe in success, we have to 
explain not only why Postbox is struggling* but also why both JB and 
David Ascher failed to generate sufficient income to continue funding 

Briefly though, here's theories on each of these:

Postbox: As a fork, they lost access to the innovations that were being 
funded by Mozilla in Thunderbird without considerable backporting 
effort, plus addons were not directly compatible. They really have no 
effective market differentation from Thunderbird that I can see, other 
than trying to be a better Thunderbird. If Mozilla had reduced their 
funding for Thunderbird in 2007 instead of 2012 (which is probably the 
bet that Postbox made and lost) they would have done much better.

Mozilla (JB & DA): To believe that both of these failed to generate 
sufficient income, you have to believe that there is something in 
Mozilla culture or organization that prevented them from seeing or 
pursuing other paths. There are plenty of candidates: 1) not enough 
focus on the enterprise, 2) too much focus on hoping to fulfill 
Mozilla's mandate of gaining internet influence, 3) complacency born of 
dependency on Firefox income, 4) protecting a Mozilla image that relies 
implicitly on that same Firefox income, 5) strong belief in Mozilla that 
desktop clients like Thunderbird are obsolete, 6) unable to pursue 
directions that involve direct payment from users.

But these are theories only. Still, the "JB and DA" story is one of the 
reasons that people like myself and BenB keep trying to make the case 
that there needs to be a more radical break from the past governance if 
there is to be any hope of a revitalization of Thunderbird.

>> 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.
> I think it's a political reality that they will need to be 
> organizationally independent of Mozilla-the-organization.
> Gerv

I'm so glad to hear you say that. It's been difficult to talk about 
possible alternate governance of a future Mozilla-based communications 
client without being viewed as anti-Mozilla, or trying some sort of coup.

To avoid the Postbox situation, it really is important that this 
"organizationally independent of Mozilla-the-organization" entity be at 
least cooperative with, and ideally highly symbiotic with Thunderbird.

I'm still considering possible futures. If anyone else is interested in 
discussing this more, what do you think would be the best forum for that?




Here's my evidence that Postbox is struggling:

1) They cut their price in half, which is never a sign of strength.
2) They no longer provide any path for user support, not even a 
user-to-user forum.
3) One of their founders, Seth Spitzer, is now  working for Zygna. His 
page at describes Postbox as having 
"tens of thousands of paying customers". That means that their total 
sales over 5 years have probably been less than $1,000,000 - certainly 
not enough to fund 3 full-time silicon valley types.
4) They did not even incorporate Gecko 10, so they have no path 
currently for security updates. If they announce a new version that 
incorporates Gecko 17 in the next few months, I'll have to revise my 

But they are still doing releases, did a 3.06 this week.

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