Why we need Gecko updates

Wayne Mery (Thunderbird QA) vseerror at lehigh.edu
Fri Dec 11 19:20:21 UTC 2015

On 12/10/2015 12:20 PM, R Kent James wrote:
> Although "demand" can have have the meaning in English of "an insistent
> and peremptory request, made as if by right" it can also mean "to call
> for or require as just, proper, or necessary"  I don't think that
> Mitchell intended to say that Thunderbird has been unreasonably
> insistent in their interactions with Mozilla.
> Specifically in response to "Is there code in m-c that they want to
> remove but can't because of TB? " one good example is the cache
> directory, which has been superseded by cache2 in FF but is kept for
> Thunderbird.

Indeed. I seem to recall talking to someone who said cache2 should not 
be difficult to implement.

I should think that Seamonkey would also want this.

 > Another is the "deprecated" interface to the proxy code.
> There have certainly been examples that I am aware of in character sets
> as well, though they have been more aggressive there about removing
> unneeded things.
> There are also countless little ways throughout infrastructure in which
> Thunderbird has code that is maintained, and places some burden on
> Firefox. Think of AMO, BMO, Dataviz (that measures ADI), SUMO, Nucleas
> (where release notes are written), and practically any other
> infrastructure item, and there are little Thunderbird-specific features
> that demand small amounts of attention from MoCo staff. Frequently
> Thunderbird does not keep up with the current state of things, so the
> versions that they maintain for us are older and therefore harder to
> work with (think the old SVN website for example, where Kohei has
> single-handedly brought us out of the old world into the new
> Django/Bedrock world).
> I also suggest that you listen to some of Chris Beard's speeches on Air
> Mozilla about planning for 2016. One of the points he makes is that the
> attempt of Mozilla to refocus on desktop Firefox requires that they
> identify things that they used to do that are not adding value to
> Firefox, and try to eliminate them. At the highest management levels,
> they are looking around for what can be cut to allow better focus.
> Thunderbird is an obvious target of this. (Apparently, so is Firefox OS
> phones.)
> I also do not think that we have the full story, and probably never
> will. In my talks with Doug Turner about our infrastructure migration
> (in which he was extremely cooperative and encouraging, by the way),
> there were a couple of subtle hints about issues with Thunderbird. For
> example, he thought we probably were not looking at crash stats (but
> then I said we of course do, and our crash rate is lower than Firefox),

Great to hear Doug is so engaged. And yes both crash-stats (mostly major 
crashes only) and bugzilla reports are well looked after - although I 
think it's mainly just me and Magnus (and standard8 prior to that), so 
we need others would step forward to share the load [1].

And yes our crash rate is far lower than Firefox's, about 1/3 [2]. 
Although I suspect our users data is a little more at risk from 
corruption and loss from crashes.

[1] crash bugs filed in past year: http://mzl.la/1J0suhi
[2] crash rates ...
Graph: http://imgur.com/iQ5MDn1
TB query: http://bit.ly/1O0m6hD
FF query: http://bit.ly/1NgxAtO

> and he made comments about mostly unmaintained fundamental network code,
> like for SMTP security. I don't think he is well informed here, and
> probably has no need or desire to be well informed, but I took that as a
> hint that Mozilla management may be concerned that Thunderbird is not
> able to maintain the quality that they think should be associated with
> the Mozilla brand.

Given the fact that there is no active module owner, sure, there is 
reason for concern. But then, over the last 10 or so years, we've rarely 
had security issues in these areas.

> Although there are lots of little points of intersection between
> Thunderbird and Mozilla that could be the source of our tax, the area
> they have asked us to focus on is release and build. I have not seen
> anyone step forward and way, "Yes! I want to work on that". We really
> need to find ways to solve this and move forward. Mozilla needs to see
> that the Thunderbird team is willing to take on areas that cause high
> levels of taxation in the Firefox world. How can we reorganize to do that?
> :rkent
> On 12/10/2015 3:02 AM, Aceman wrote:
>> What is that tax really?
>> Is there any noticeable work by FF devs to code stuff for TB?
>> They even called it "demands" from TB in the official message. Is
>> there anything in m-c that was added just by TB requiring it? Is there
>> code in m-c that they want to remove but can't because of TB? I am not
>> aware of these cases, but maybe there are some. That is why I ask.
>> Or is it just that TB building/tests run on their servers? But then
>> that does not affect the future direction of Firefox in any way.
>> ______________________________________________________________
>>> Od: R Kent James <kent at caspia.com>
>>> Komu: <tb-planning at mozilla.org>
>>> Dátum: 09.12.2015 22:14
>>> Predmet: Re: Why we need Gecko updates
>>> 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.
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