Future Planning: Thunderbird as a Web App

Kent James kent at caspia.com
Fri Sep 18 18:12:51 UTC 2015

On 9/17/2015 4:06 PM, Axel Grude wrote:
> We will have to convince Addon authors to convert away from XUL, so 
> there needs to be documentation or workshops helping to get away from 
> this. And obviously we need a transition time where "both" 
> technologies can be used concurrently to find out about performance / 
> compatibility issues. According to the timeline you give below, there 
> is not much wiggle room there.

Compare the schedule I have proposed to Firefox. They care claiming "12 
- 18 months" as their timetable for getting rid of XUL (which schedule I 
think is crazy talk, but that is another discussion.) If you look at the 
rough schedule that I have proposed, it is almost three years before we 
ship Thunderbird in a non-XUL version, including a full cycle of forked 
m-c if needed to keep XUL going. That is 2-3 times the wiggle that 
Firefox has proposed.

Part of the hope here is that Thunderbird addon developers will have a 
lot of time to see how Firefox addon developers reacts to the whole 
deXULification of Firefox, and develop mitigation strategies. I wish 
that Firefox had a better mitigation strategy for addons in place before 
they announced these changes as a done deal, but we have to adapt. It is 
really, really hard for us to say much more until the Firefox situation 
gets clearer. But as you know several of the core Thunderbird team 
(myself and Fallen) come from the addon world, so we are quite committed 
to maintaining powerful addons as a possibility for Thunderbird.

>> I'm using Android Gmail App to access my email in parallel with the 
>> more comfortable Thenderbird on my desktop when I actually try to get 
>> some work done. Most email providers already allow web access to 
>> their emails. But a unified Thunderbird frontend on Android and 
>> Firefox OS would sure be nice.

Right. The problem with the current status quo is that you are forced to 
minimize your use of advanced Thunderbird features (including filters, 
tags, etc.) because they do not adapt to Android or webmail apps. If we 
are going to provide advanced strategies for managing and categorizing 
email, which I think we should, those strategies also need to work in at 
least an Android environment, and preferable also in a browser or iOS app.

>> 59 (09/2017 Dunlin?) Last and traditional XUL/C++ release. By this 
>> date, a reasonable possibility is that the Mozilla platform will no 
>> longer be usable for non-browser XUL-based development. This version 
>> of Thunderbird, in that case, would need to ship on a fork of Mozilla 
>> from the point where XUL-based development becomes untenable. 
> can you elaborate what you mean? Forking would make XUL-based 
> development impossible? Or XUL based development necessitates forking?

Forking for Dunlin means that, per the announced Firefox timing, in that 
time period Firefox will have converted to a non-XUL environment. What I 
am proposing is that, if needed, Thunderbird continue availability of a 
XUL-based environment, even if it means forking mozilla-central as a 
means of extending that time period. (Personally I doubt if Firefox can 
abandon XUL in their announced timeframe, but we can't plan on that basis.)

>> This will also be our last major XUL-based release, and we will not 
>> attempt to keep current with the new non-XUL Mozilla platform. It 
>> would also be useful to ship a stripped-down version of Thunderbird 
>> as a web app with this release.
> for the web app, will there be local storage? a "gloda-like" 
> repository that can be stored on the hard drive? will the data be 
> cross compatible with any other desktop email clients?

We need to maintain at least the choice of keeping a full local copy of 
email, as we do now. That includes a local database that summarizes the 
data in some way. Cross-compatible data is not a current goal, nor is it 
likely to be in the future.

> Any plans on who from the Thunderbird team could / would lead 
> development. Are we going to get some help from the Firefox team?

Who: I would hope that people currently involved in Thunderbird 
development would contribute toward this new strategy. But if we manage 
to hit the funding targets that I have discussed, we will also clearly 
be looking to add some additional people. If you have people in mind, 
please point them out to me privately.


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