The Case for Thunderbird in Mozilla

Joshua Cranmer 🐧 pidgeot18 at
Wed Sep 16 02:07:21 UTC 2015

On 9/15/2015 3:30 PM, R Kent James wrote:
> What I would appreciate at this point are comments on what are the 
> reasons that Mozilla should accept Thunderbird as an official project, 
> presumably under the Mozilla Foundation, that provides us with the 
> structure that we need to succeed. Please help me make The Case for 
> Thunderbird in Mozilla.

Thunderbird remains the largest open-source email project in existence, 
with a total userbase that is larger than some of the projects that 
Mozilla considers part of its core mission. This userbase size makes it 
uniquely positioned to champion the goals of the Open Web in the wider 
email and messaging standardization community, a factor which cannot be 
guaranteed for other, smaller projects within Mozilla's umbrella. A good 
recent example is that Thunderbird's objections to the SASL OAuth 
specification as then-proposed did result in a strong impetus for 
dynamic client registration, with Thunderbird cited as an explicit use case.

It should be noted that the messaging world is at great risk of moving 
to closed, proprietary silos. Thunderbird's large userbase and ability 
to cooperate with the open alternatives in this area gives it more 
bargaining power to help pry open some of these silos. Our large, 
multinational userbase also lets us help developers of small projects in 
other ways: as we move some of our protocol or parsing code to JS, we 
can provide extremely robust libraries that are known to work in real 
scenarios. The Firefox OS email folks, for example, are moving to the JS 
code used to parse MIME because their old library was insufficient in 
that regard.

There is also still a great deal of innovation in email clients worth 
exploring, and Thunderbird provides both a great platform for exploring 
this innovation via add-ons as well as a vehicle for mass market 
adoption, due to its large userbase. Examples of such innovation include 
most notably making it easier to deploy secure, private email 
communication with an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand UX, which is 
precisely the sort of task that one would have in mind when they read 
the 4th bullet on the Mozilla Manifesto.

Finally, it is worth noting that Thunderbird is a popular program among 
the wider tech community, and many in that community believe the 
discontinuation of paid staff on the project to have been a mistake on 
the part of Mozilla. Announcing the continued support of Thunderbird 
would thus be a PR boon and would only help improve public trust in 
Mozilla's ability to achieve its goals of the open web. [Editorial note: 
this paragraph is basically an attempt to politely say "Loop and Pocket 
were received poorly; this is an easy way to get very good reaction from 
the community to counteract that while doing almost nothing." Better 
wordsmithing is probably needed.]

Joshua Cranmer
Thunderbird and DXR developer
Source code archæologist

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