Proposal for Thunderbird crowdfunding

Kent James kent at
Thu Sep 20 19:01:06 UTC 2012

On 9/20/2012 10:54 AM, ace wrote:
> I vote for funding projects that nobody wants to do for free, like 
> creating more tests. For that purpose even hundreds of $ here and 
> there would be enough for the occasional volunteers. aceman

I'm not sure how to put what I need to say in a way that won't offend 
some people, but let me try.

I've been heavily influenced by my exposure to microcredit in the 
context of international development.

It sounds like a really good idea to go to a poor village, and offer 
loans to people at a really low rate (free or 10% interest per year) so 
that poor people can have access to funding for their small business 
ventures - and to be forgiving when some of them cannot repay their 
loans. But unfortunately that is not a sustainable model. What people 
have learned through bitter experience, is that if you go and do that in 
a village, things seem great for a little while, but eventually the 
project does not really meet the larger need,  and because it is 
unsustainable, has to be abandoned.

But even worse - and this is the real point. By getting the village used 
to the idea that loans should be free or low cost, anybody who comes in 
later with a sustainable program is viewed as profiteers out to exploit 
the poor. So by offering the unsustainable program, not only have you 
failed to solve the problem, but you have spoiled the chances for a 
real, sustainable program to take hold because people have become 
accustomed to the idea that "ethical loan programs" offer unsustainably 
low interest rates, and easy forgiveness of failed loans. /*You have 
done more harm than good.*/

That is my fear of where we are headed with Thunderbird. I get the sense 
that people believe that the really right thing to do is for armies of 
people to come forward and offer to volunteer their experience to make 
this thing really go.  People who talk about monetization are viewed 
with suspicion, as somehow not getting the message that it is "not about 
money", it is supposed to be about having fun and doing great things.

But if that model is unable to meet the real need of what we all hope to 
achieve, are you doing more harm than good by promoting the "fun and 
great things" model of participation? Or asking for a few hundred 
dollars, and think that is going to make a difference, when I would 
guess that Mozilla has spent over $10,000,000 in the last few years 
sustaining Thunderbird?

I believe that the world needs a vibrant, open communication client, and 
Thunderbird has the potential to be more than it is in that space. If we 
accept an unsustainable model going forward, we cannot achieve that. One 
of the biggest obstacles to achieving that is the hope that some have 
that the "fun and doing great things" model, along with a few hundred 
dollars thrown in here and there, is going to lead to a vibrant product. 
I don't think it is. I believe that the community needs to embrace 
monetization methods if we hope to move forward. /*If you embrace an 
unsustainable model, thereby rejecting a valid sustainable model, you 
are doing more harm than good.*/

Now that may not be possible. I get the sense that Mozilla management 
believes a) there is no valid monetization scheme for Thunderbird, or at 
least one that would be acceptable to Mozilla, b) Thunderbird is a 
product that follows an obsolete paradigm that should be slowly retired, 
and c) monetization outside of a corporate structure would present 
intractable problems of fairness that is more risky than it is worth.

They may well be right. But can we at least discuss it, without some 
sense that we are taking the moral low road by discussing monetization?


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