Role of addons
kent at caspia.com
Fri Sep 14 17:06:26 UTC 2012
There is a continual debate that we have in bugs about whether to
include certain features in the core code or not. I'd like to see if we
can develop a consensus about a philosophy here.
One of the risks that we face, and have succumbed to in the past, is to
add features and their complexity to the core code primarily because a
developer was motivated to do so. I confess that I have been guilty of
that in the past.
One of the results of that is well stated in a review of Thunderbird by
Linux Magazine <http://www.linux-mag.com/id/7788/> :
"/One of the problems with Thunderbird is that it doesn't seem to fit
with most users' needs for email. That is, it doesn't work well for
business users who need features like calendaring and groupware
connectivity, and it doesn't work well for casual mail users who have
mostly adopted Webmail or whatever ships on their computer. ... It's too
complex for casual users, and not full-featured enough for business users."
/In terms of positioning of the product, I think that we should push at
both of these boundaries, at the same time realizing that we will
probably never be able to displace webmail for the most casual user, or
Outlook for the most complex enterprise.
To push at the simplicity boundary, we must be willing to reduce the
complexity of the user interface. One of the main ways that we have to
do that is through addons. The user interface for features that are only
going to be used by a tiny fraction of our users should be pushed to
addons, and not included in the core code.
In the long run I would like to see us do this more explicitly by adding
a category of addon that is maintained along with the core product, and
shipped with the core product. So these addons would have the same
commitment to support as any core feature, but are included as addons to
reduce the overall complexity of the product. Good candidates for that
in the long run would be chat, calendaring, RSS feeds, bayesian junk
processing, advanced security models, and advanced search and filter
In the short run, I would encourage us to be selective about adding new
features that complicate an already overwhelming user interface. Just
because a developer is motivated should not be a good reason to add new
user interface items for rarely needed features.
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