Why we need Gecko updates

R Kent James kent at caspia.com
Wed Dec 9 21:14:32 UTC 2015

On 12/9/2015 11:37 AM, Magnus Melin wrote:
> I'd like to add to the above that forking m-c isn't likely as long as 
> we could still build Thunderbird from it. If building gets impossible 
> then you'd have to go from there.
> Besides lacking security updates you'd also build on dead-end 
> technology and nobody really wants to work with that a few years down 
> the line.

I fully agree with this - up to a point. But the issue we face is this: 
MoCo is telling us that they do not want to spend any time on 
Thunderbird-related issues. If we take them at their word, then all of 
these requests we make to m-c for changes to support Thunderbird will no 
longer be accepted. In that case, m-c changes WILL break us. The option 
you are presenting is one that MoCo is telling us is not possible.

As I see it, you are asking that we assume that MoCo will continue with 
the status quo of the last few years, that is that they will give 
minimum attention to Thunderbird, but they will still keep us building. 
What I keep hearing them say is that they want to stop doing this, 
because the tax on Firefox is too great. Then there is elephant in the 
room, that they are really hoping to convert large parts of Firefox away 
from C++, XUL, and XPCOM and toward the servo-based browser using Rust. 
I cannot see any reasonable chance of converting Thunderbird to Rust, or 
even wanting to.

Looking forward, my crystal ball tells me this schedule:

Thunderbird 46 - 52 (TB 52 ships around 2017-01): Largely continue the 
status quo (though I think it is time to have our own branch of m-c, or 
of a merged m-c/c-c, so that we are not broken all of the time, and we 
can merge m-c to our build enviroment in a controlled manner including a 
few of our own fixes). (Thunderbird 52 builds from mozilla-esr52,  or 
the equivalent combined repo using merged m-c/c-c, from 2017-01 through 

Thunderbird 53 - 59: (TB 59 ships around 2017-09) Forked m-c, still 
using XUL and XPCOM, merging in security patches. No longer merging 
complete mozilla-central but only selected patches. Thunderbird 59 
builds using security patches merged in from mozilla-esr59, from 
2017-09  - 2018-08)

Thunderbird 60+ Around 2018-08, mozilla-esr59 will EOL, and we will no 
long have any stable Mozilla repo to use as a basis for security 
patches. mozilla-esr66 will be too far from buildable with Thunderbird 
to be a usable base.

Here is the problem: to have any reasonable chance of switching to an 
alternate platform, the time required is probably 2-3 years. If we 
follow the current status quo, but otherwise keeping to the assumptions 
above, somewhere in mid 2017, the pain to try to continue using m-c will 
become too great, but by then we will only have about one year left 
before any hope of keeping up with security patches is lost. If the 
project dies without security patches, then we are dead in 3 years.

At some point we are going to have to make assumptions about the future, 
and start acting on it. The current assumption is "Mozilla is bluffing". 
I can't buy that. You are welcome to challenge any of my assumptions, 
but just hoping that this issue is going to go away seems to me to be 
wishful thinking.


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