TB Future Dev
R Kent James
kent at caspia.com
Wed Oct 21 17:39:34 UTC 2015
On 10/20/2015 6:14 PM, jsabash wrote:
> "Investigated Github atom/electron as a development environment for a
> post-Gecko Thunderbird.
> It would be really good to have some partners in long-term work for
> Gecko Thunderbird is dying, is there any debate about that?"
> I would like a little clarification on this statement.
> Gecko to me is the basic rendering engine of a browser or Mail App
At the meetings, I tend to raise difficult issues that are not easily
expressed as a two-sentence summary. Let me clarify.
Gecko development is currently tightly focused on improving Firefox as a
product. Mozilla as an organization has defined its mission as promoting
platform. Neither of these goals is compatible with the current
Thunderbird development environment, which is essentially recompiling
Firefox to function as an email client. We also need to realize that
Firefox is under tremendous pressure right now, so they have precious
little bandwidth to focus on anything other than their own long-term
relevance. We can neither demand nor expect that Firefox revenue will be
used to subsidize Thunderbird development, either directly or even
indirectly as now.
A good example is the discussion we recently had about how addon changes
will affect Thunderbird. Blake Winton (who is a key player now in the
Web Extensions world) said "It isn't being designed to work with
Thunderbird, and I'm not even sure they would accept patches that got it
working with Thunderbird". We can expect more and more changes like this
in the future, with things like XUL deprecation, Electrolysis, and Servo
in the Firefox world leading to an increasingly difficult operating
environment for Thunderbird in the Gecko binary world.
So it seems to me that long-term we have these three long-term choices:
1) Assume that either Firefox is bluffing about their upcoming
changes, or imagine that somehow we can adapt to them, even when the
Firefox team itself has no long-term commitment to continue to support
Thunderbird as a application target for a Gecko binary.
2) Fork mozilla-central at some future point when Thunderbird support
becomes untenable, and try to maintain it ourselves.
3) Rework Thunderbird to work on an alternate development platform
that has a long-term future.
The current "plan" is path 1) which IMHO is really path 2). I do not
believe that is a viable long-term plan. I laid out a plan in my post
"Thunderbird as a Web App" that essentially set down a three-year
timetable for a transition to an alternate platform that used Web
At the meeting, my point was that I do not sense other people having the
same sense of urgency and commitment to a long-term transition that I
seem to feel. I outlined some of my investigations into the
Atom/Electron development environment, which is a Github (the company)
project to make a development environment for desktop applications that
provides a platform for making Mac/Linux/Windows apps that use nodejs as
the backend. This is exactly where we seem to be headed, so I think that
we should experiment with that platform. I switched this weekend to Atom
as my editor to get some feel for this (and discovered that it crashes
several times per day).
The quote in the notes "Gecko Thunderbird is dying, is there any debate
about that?" is asking if anyone really believes that plan 1) or plan 2)
is the right long-term plan. If not, then we really need to get more
people to focus on the transition issues.
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