Proposal for Thunderbird crowdfunding

Kent James kent at caspia.com
Thu Sep 20 15:40:21 UTC 2012


On 9/20/2012 5:46 AM, Ludovic Hirlimann wrote:
> On 9/4/12 7:09 AM, Paul Morris wrote:
>> I like this idea.  It seems to me that the community should have the 
>> means to fund itself.
>>
>> A number of TB users have expressed interest in making donations to 
>> support continued innovation on TB (in blog post comments, etc.).  
>> Having an official channel or system to make that possible makes 
>> sense to me.
>>
> What are you guys thinking about funding ?

I believe that I have made my position perfectly clear in the past, but 
I will repeat it.

Sources of significant funding will be absolutely critical to having 
Thunderbird continue to meet the needs of its users, and fulfill its 
important mission in the internet space. But we are not talking about a 
few hundred dollars here and there, we are talking about at least a 
million dollars per year, and ideally 10 times that amount.

People often misinterpret me to think that I am primarily interested in 
earning a living for myself. Yes I believe that people who are 
contributing significantly to something of value deserve to receive back 
some fraction of that value - but that includes not only myself, but 
also the other people who work on this project. I also believe that 
money is an important means of communication of what is important, and 
it bothers me when that communication is telling me to go and work on my 
own narrow little project (where I might earn some income) instead of on 
more important core bugs (like the folder compact issues that I have 
been spent the most of the last week on, but where I have no hope of 
earning any income).

There is also a big, unfulfilled mission out there to create a 
MozAwesome full-featured communication and information system, 
encompassing multiple streams of information (email, contacts, calendar, 
video, social feeds), multiple platforms (desktop, mobile, web, and 
soon-to-be WebApp), and multiple user classes (basic, power, and 
enterprise). The Thunderbird community is one of only a few players that 
has any hope of rising to this challenge. This is not going to be met by 
unpaid volunteers working a few hours per week, students projects, and 
the occasional devoted geek with a day job.

Back to the original topic though, one of the possible funding sources 
is donations. But to be effective, this needs to be promoted in the 
product itself. I can imagine an annual donations campaign that is 
integrated into the product in the form of a tab, or perhaps an extra 
menubar. If we have, say, 10 million reachable users, 1% giving $10 each 
would give a million dollars. The main obstacle to this though is 
Mozilla culture itself, which has grown up with the lucrative browser 
income stream where gobs of money are raised invisibly. Thunderbird does 
not have that income stream, and should not be constrained by that 
culture. Don't think, Firefox, that your values concerning monetization 
are somehow absolute, and not affected by your own lucrative income 
stream! Do not impose those values on us if we don't have your same 
income stream!

Yet at the moment I believe that the biggest obstacle is governance. We 
simply don't have the structures in place that would allow us to push 
forward with things like this - and I get pushback whenever I try to 
recommend something. Gerv raised the issue of donations as well a few 
months ago, and at the time I said we need to wait  until after the 
summit, when hopefully issues of governance would be better defined. But 
that did not occur, at least to my satisfaction. We have structures in 
place that view Thunderbird as a "desktop email client" that is entering 
an honorable retirement, but not structures that have any hope of moving 
forward.

:rkent
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