Thunderbird’s Future: the TL;DR Version

Kent James kent at
Thu Jul 31 20:20:03 UTC 2014

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.
    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
  * 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

    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.
  * 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.
  * 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.

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.

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