Slashdot article: Replacement For Mozilla Thunderbird?

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at
Sat Dec 19 02:06:40 UTC 2015

FYI, this was posted by someone else today to Slashdot:
"I've used Thunderbird for about a decade, and Netscape Mail before that 
(I have an email from 1998 from Marc Andreessen, welcoming me to 
Netscape Email, telling me different fonts can add impact to my emails). 
Thunderbird has served me well, but it's getting long in the tooth. 
Given the lack of development and the possibility that it's going End of 
Life, what should I use instead? I have multiple email accounts and an 
archive of sixteen years of email. I could get a copy of Outlook, but I 
don't like it. Things I like about Thunderbird: Supports multiple email 
accounts; simple interface; storage structure is not one monolithic 
file; plain text email editor; filtering. Things I don't like: HTML 
email editor; folders are hard to change and re-arrange."

I put some excerpts from the more informed comments below.

I'll sent a separate progress update on the Thunderbird Server / Twirlip 
proof-of-concept while I'm taking a short break from coding at the moment.

--Paul Fernhout

== Some of the more interesting comments from that Slashdot article:

One example comment/replay there: "Q: Anyone know of any news about what 
a Thunderbird end of life means for the Seamonkey project?
A: Following the forums, the developers and the users are worried. At 
the moment people are simply watching developments."

I found this comment insightful: "We've lost the arms race for content 
over presentation in this medium. Pages with perhaps a kilobyte of text 
take over a megabyte to download and 10 seconds to render. Firefox is 
mortally wounded. Safari and Opera are hobbled. Chrome is a trojan 
horse. Guys, I think the Gopher people were right." :-)

One comment defended Thunderbird:
"1 - What does "end of life" mean in this context?
Nothing. It is a mature (pretty) full-featured email client with a 
plugin architecture which is good enough.
2 - Lack of development.
See point #1"

Although a couple replies pointed out the need to fix security issues.

Another comment defending Thunderbird: "You obviously have been just 
skimming the headlines and haven't actually been using Thunderbird 
yourself -- I've used it for years now and it's been getting updates the 
entire time. Earlier there were more frequent version upgrades but at 
this point it's a stable, reliable mail client."

Another on Thunderbird issues:
"There are plenty of development problems remaining. The email ecosystem 
has evolved out from under Thunderbird.
     * No synchronization with online addressbooks without flaky, 
unsupported plugins.
     * Poor treatment of Gmail tags
     * It *still* can't figure out an http IMG in an html sig, link is 
broken after the first response.
Also, there's lots of stupid feature issues (which might be because I'm 
on Linux). My main annoyances are:
     * Can't drag attachments out of thunderbird
     * Can't copy text out of address book without opening contact into 
edit mode.
     * Address book can't default into a view which excludes 
auto-collected contacts
     * Can't disable sig append after first response in a thread."

One comment marked insightful: "The problem isn't the client itself, 
it's the fact that it needs a built in browser for HTML emails, which 
requires security updates."

A reply to that: "Losing HTML in email is a bad thing?" And a further 
reply to that: "Actually, I think it is. Once upon a time I would have 
been right there with you but the email ecosystem has evolved to the 
point where it's a mainstay and an important feature to support. I don't 
think JavaScript or the like have a place, but CSS/HTML absolutely do."

Another that reflects my long-term sentiment: "I'm myself satisfied with 
Thunderbird, it does what I expect it to do, it has a decent junk mail 
filter (better than Outlook, but that's not hard) and has an user 
interface that's not as messed up as the Outlook interface. There are of 
course some details that can be better, but regardless of mail client 
you will suffer from that, just pick your poison."

Another insightful (to me) comment: "First, actually I run my own mail 
server, so I do keep (that email) locally rather than "in the cloud". 
But as I have IMAP, I can access it anywhere. Secondly: storing your 
email on a single PC, and only reading it on that single PC, is not an 
improvement on "the cloud" in any useful way. It's overly restrictive, 
not merely for forcing you to deal with emails in a single geographic 
location, but also making it much harder to use email to, for example, 
share photographs and links from mobile devices. I definitely wouldn't 
recommend the old download-everything-with-POP approach."

Debates pro/con on email search and Thunderbird vs. gmail: 
"Thunderbird's search is horrible. If I'm using Thunderbird, I'll open 
the gmail web site to do my searches." / "Thunderbirds filter search is 
fantastic. Immediate response and filtering by subject or sender." / 
"Full text search is what I'm referring to. Rarely do I ever have 
subject or sender memorized." / "Yep, different use cases for different 

This comment there maybe sums up one school of thought for Thunderbird's 
future (at least for people who like C++ and/or JavaScript bindings to 
desktop widget libraries): "I suspect that Thunderbird has enough 
following that it will simply be forked. But maintaining a XUL-based GUI 
is going to be more and more difficult, especially when the Mozilla 
rendering engine will abandon XUL entirely. Ideally I'd love to see a 
program that functions and looks almost exactly like Thunderbird, but 
without XUL. Just a nice Qt GUI will be sufficient."

As does this: "FossaMail is a Thunderbird fork from the creator of the 
Pale Moon web browser (Though you don't have to use the one to use the 
other). The devs have confirmed that they are a true fork that is 
independently developing each release and will continue on as it has 
been with future security, stability, and useability improvements no 
matter what happens to Thunderbird. A Thunderbird user would likely find 
the interface and features very familiar, and I think there is an 
included migration tool to import settings and such from Thunderbird."

And another person promoted Seamonkey, although perhaps not realizing it 
may face many of the same issues Thunderbird does. Other things got 
mentioned like Evolution, Claws, and even pine.

And on a very positive note one person wrote: "Thunderbird isn't 
approaching end of life. If anything, it is about to open up. The TB 
developers were frustrated by having to maintain compatibility with 
Firefox technologies that don't really apply to TB. They, the 
developers, were the ones who suggested Mozilla let them go to another 
entity. This isn't about finding a replacement for a dieing Thunderbird, 
but for Thunderbird being able to chart its own direction free from 
Firefox influence. This is a good thing, a very good thing!"

Articles like the above show that there is a certain social momentum to 
Thunderbird that may be lost without some sort of official plan 
announced. I don't think they will cause many people who rely on 
Thunderbird to suddenly stop using it, but they will make it less likely 
new users adopt it.

However, with so many possibilities, it is obviously unclear where 
Thunderbird should go. FossaMail shows there are people out there 
apparently willing to maintain Thunderbird-as-it-is for now (not sure 
how long though?) Webmail remains a popular choice, but people want 
those features locally if they are concerned about privacy. 
Thunderbird's code base is probably hard to maintain given the full 
scale of it (one gigabyte of source when you include Firefox), but with 
enough money, almost anything is possible.

It seems to me that, if Thunderbird goes forward as it (C++ etc.) that 
the FossaMail people should be involved as with the Thunderbird Council 
(maybe they are?).

And even in C++, Thunderbird could get a webserver written into it for 
mobile clients or tablets around the house, so while I would not choose 
to code that way, for people who like C++, and it can be a good language 
when used well, that is a way to go. Just look at what Citadel has done 
in C, with the Citadel server which includes email handling and a web 

--Paul Fernhout
The biggest challenge of the 21st century is the irony of technologies 
of abundance in the hands of those still thinking in terms of scarcity.

More information about the tb-planning mailing list