Thunderbird Reorganization: Summary Plan

R Kent James kent at
Thu Sep 11 08:07:44 UTC 2014

On 9/10/2014 12:41 PM, Joshua Cranmer 🐧 wrote:
> On 9/9/2014 12:25 PM, Kent James wrote:
>> While Thunderbird remains a strong product with a growing user base, 
>> it's become apparent that we need to rework some basic ways that we 
>> operate if we are to successfully meet our user's expectations in the 
>> future. Here I present in brief summary the key features of a plan 
>> that I believe are necessary to move us forward. Let's discuss this 
>> and see if we can reach a consensus so that we can begin the process 
>> of implementing any needed changes in conjunction with our upcoming 
>> Thunderbird Summit.
>> Thunderbird Reorganization: Summary Plan
>> 1) Thunderbird to remain an independent project under the Mozilla 
>> umbrella, but with a large degree of autonomy. Thunderbird to be 
>> subject to the Mozilla Manifesto and brand, but may depart from the 
>> current Mozilla Mission of promoting the web as a platform.
> I think it is worth pointing out that messaging and communication are 
> at severe risk of being closed off. While WebRTC is an open standard, 
> all of the major videoconferencing solutions don't use it (Google 
> Hangouts still requires you to install a plugin if you're not on 
> Chrome). Even venerable IMAP is being threatened: several major 
> webmail providers (including Google) are trying to ban non-OAuth2 
> logins, which effectively requires clients to hardcode a list of 
> webmail providers. Even so, Thunderbird is the largest open-source 
> email project, and, from experience, I can tell you that saying that 
> actions will cause issues for Thunderbird will have more of an impact 
> than saying that actions will cause issues for, say, Gaia Email.
> IMAP and MIME are very complex specifications defined across dozens of 
> documents and containing several rules honored only in the breach. I 
> think Thunderbird could be doing more to make robust implementations 
> of these specifications available to other prospective applications, 
> and I think Gaia Email would love to help (short the caveat that they 
> are almost as badly stretched for resources as we are :( ).
> Thunderbird is a very powerful weapon to achieve Mozilla's vision, and 
> I think both the need to use that weapon and the realization of its 
> power are vastly undercounted in Mozilla as an organization. We should 
> certainly strive to make these facts more well-known at Mozilla.
Amen to all of that!

One thing that I left out of this current proposal, that I included in 
"Thunderbird’s Future: the TL;DR Version" 
was "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." I still think that we should do that, but that issue can 
be treated separately from the current reorg proposal. At the moment, we 
need a reorg that is pared to the bare minimum so that we can get 
maximum buy-in.

Self-respect within Mozilla will come not only from having a worthy 
vision, but also from being financially independent as a project. As 
long as our pleas for respectability with Mozilla are viewed as veiled 
attempts to get Firefox to increase their subsidy of Thunderbird, I 
don't think we will be heard. So to me financial independence, which 
includes enough resources to move forward, is critical to meeting our 
mission as stewards of a piece of the open internet.


	R. Kent James
Personal: kent at
Business: rkent at
Twitter: @rkentjames
Mozilla IRC: :rkent

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