Governance and Release Model updates

David Lechner david at
Tue Nov 13 21:15:06 UTC 2012

For the last year, I have been working as a self-employed software 
developer. I have been primarily working on customizing proprietary 
software and I don't like the fact that due to the license of that 
software, I cannot just give away what I have been doing. It seems like 
such a waste of my effort for only one business to benefit. So, I have 
been thinking about how I could make a living from open source software. 
Since it relates to this discussion, I figured I would share my ideas 
and apply them to Thunderbird.

I really like the OpenERP philosophy ( 
Basically, I think that if you want to make a living as a software 
developer, you should be selling your services, not a product. My ideas 
are something along the line of what Blake said:
> I think having a not-Mozilla organization dedicated to enhancing 
> Mozilla Thunderbird could work out well. They wouldn't be responsible 
> for releasing it, but I see no problem with them (say) charging money 
> to support it in enterprises.  (Or, maybe we could look into a model 
> like the "Microsoft Solution Providers", where other people build 
> businesses around the Thunderbird codebase?)

So here is my hypothetical future of Thunderbird...

First you have Mozilla. As has been stated before, Mozilla will continue 
to provide infrastructure for testing (try servers), building (build 
servers), and maintaining (bugzilla, wikis, getsatisfaction,  etc.) and 
personnel for security and stability fixes and driving releases. If an 
external organization chose to fork the code, it would be an enormous 
task to try to do these things themselves. Not a good idea. Rather, 
Mozilla *needs* to be the keeper of the code.

Next, you have the volunteer contributors. These are the people who just 
like Thunderbird and want to do something useful to make Thunderbird 
better. These folks are already here and will most likely keep doing 
what they are doing, so no need to explain further.

Now, following Kent's lead, we have Swanfox. (As a side note, I might 
choose a name like ThunderbirdPros if you could get away with it). 
Swanfox is a for-profit organization that sells services for Thunderbird 
software. These services would include support, development, training, 
and partner certification.

Support: As Kent mentioned:
> the free support pages offered by Mozilla could point to the paid 
> support options provided by Swanfox. Even more extreme, they could be 
> integrated, so that paid support answers are also visible to the free 
> users, and free users who find their questions unanswered, or who need 
> more sophisticated support, would see clear choices to switch to a pay 
> support model
The 'more sophisticated support' could also include helpdesk type 
services for large businesses.

Development: Swanfox could offer a bug fix service. For example, if 
there is a bug that is not high priority for Mozilla or volunteers, but 
is a real blocker for a business, then that business can hire Swanfox to 
fix the bug and continue to use Thunderbird. And of course, the 
Thunderbird Community as a whole gets to benefit from the fix. Swanfox 
could also provide add-on development to integrate Thunderbird into a 
business' specific enterprise needs. I suppose you could even venture 
into product development. A mobile client is a hot topic at the moment, 
so I will use that as an example. Having a mobile client that is 
"designed to work seamlessly with Thunderbird" would defiantly be a big 
appeal to many businesses.

Training: Swanfox could offer training services for a number of things. 
They could offer end-user training for businesses that are using 
Thunderbird as their email client. They could offer more technical 
training for IT staff that have to support Thunderbird. They could also 
offer developer training for those who want to become developers and 
prefer a classroom experience to teaching themselves.

Partner certification: This is really the key here. The above tasks are 
really too many and geographically spread out for a single organization 
to take on. I see partners as people who want to work for themselves or 
have their own business and use Thunderbird as part of their business 
offerings. For example someone might want to start a business that 
offers a complete email solution including a mail server and Thunderbird 
as the client. Hopefully Swanfox would be very well known, so if this 
partner could say that they were 'certified by Swanfox', that would 
really mean something to their potential customers. Partners would earn 
their certification by contributing to Thunderbird as a volunteer - 
certification could not be just bought. Swanfox would maintain a 
directory of partners so that potential customers could find someone 
hopefully local and with the required expertise. Additionally, if 
Swanfox had more requests than they could take on, they could outsource 
to partners. Likewise, if a partner had a problem that was beyond their 
expertise, they could outsource to Swanfox (or another partner).

So, in the end, hopefully what you get is Mozilla has an enterprise 
grade mail client that they get to give away to promote a free and open 
web, individuals who get to use enterprise grade software for free if 
they want, businesses who get free software along with the level of 
support that they need and jobs for people who want to make a living as 
software developers.


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