Re: Thunderbird’s Future: the TL;DR Version

Benjamin Kerensa bkerensa at
Mon Aug 11 19:02:23 UTC 2014

On Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 1:20 PM, Kent James <kent at> wrote:
> Readers of tb-planning may be interested in my recent blog posting
> ( It
> is reproduced here.
> Thunderbird’s Future: the TL;DR Version
> By rkent, on July 31st, 2014
> In the next few months I hope to do a series of blog posts that talk about
> Mozilla’s Thunderbird email client and its future. Here’s the TL;DR version
> (though still pretty long). These are my personal views, I have no authority
> to speak for Mozilla or for the Thunderbird project.
> Current Status
> Thunderbird usage is growing, we have a strong core team, and expect to
> remain relevant to the internet for the foreseeable future.

Do we have metrics to show that it is growing? Data from the Metrics
Team perhaps?

> Thunderbird is
> mission critical to tens of millions of users.
> The last two “community-developed” Thunderbird releases, 24 and 31, while
> successful as stability releases, had few new features. The enormous effort
> required to maintain that stability left little time for feature
> development.
> Thunderbird is an important piece, under the Mozilla Manifesto, of
> maintaining an open internet. But it is not “The Web” and is outside of the
> current Mozilla Mission of “Our mission is to promote openness, innovation &
> opportunity on the Web.” Mozilla and the Thunderbird team need to better
> define the implications of that.
> Mozilla’s strategic focus on a “Web” that excludes Thunderbird has
> indirectly resulted in dis-empowerment of the Thunderbird team in a variety
> of ways. This is becoming an existential threat to the product that needs
> addressing.
> Where We Need to Go
> Thunderbird should be a full-featured desktop personal information
> management system, incorporating messaging, calendar, and contacts. We need
> to incorporate the calendaring component (Lightning) by default, and
> drastically improve contact management.
> We should be actively promoting open internet standards in messaging,
> calendaring, and contacts through product implementations as well as
> advocacy and standards development.
> Our product should continually adapt to changing internet usage patterns and
> issues, including messaging security challenges and mobile interoperability.
> We need to focus on the needs of our existing user base through increased
> reliability and performance, as well as adding long-requested features that
> are expected of a full-featured application.
> How We Get There
> Three full-time developers are needed to ensure a stable core base, and
> allow forward progress on the minimum feature set expected of us.
> We cannot reasonably expect Firefox and MoCo to subsidize our operations, so
> we need to raise income independently, through donations directly from our
> users.

How do we accomplish this? I do not see Mozilla allowing a third party
to raise money on Mozilla Thunderbird's behalf and for that money to
be kept by a separate entity. I think we need to figure out how to
work with Mozilla to sort out access to Thunderbird's revenue and have
a SOP around requesting funds. I do not think TB has ever generated
enough revenue to even hire a part-time developer.

> We are proudly Mozillians and expect to remain under the Mozilla umbrella,
> but the current governance structure, reporting through a Web-focused
> corporate management, is dis-empowering and needs conversion to a
> community-focused model that is focused on the needs of Thunderbird users.

This is why I have suggested tying a summit in with the All Hands or
right after it so we can have a better dialogue.

> We should ask MoFo to fund one person on the Thunderbird team to serve as an
> advocate for open messaging standards, contributing product code as well as
> participating publicly in standards development and discussions.

This is a great idea.

> The Thunderbird team is currently planning to get together in Toronto in
> October 2014, and Mozilla staff are getting together in December 2014 for an
> all-hands. Let’s discussion the future in conjunction with those events, to
> make sure that in 2015 we have a sustainable plan for the future.

The All Hands is not just staff it is open to core contributors that
are members of functional teams too. I just think better syncing with
MoCo and getting a real dialogue going is what will get us to success.

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