Future Planning: Thunderbird as a Web App

Kent James kent at caspia.com
Fri Sep 18 18:26:55 UTC 2015

On 9/17/2015 5:44 PM, Matthew Sotoudeh wrote:
> I'd like to clarify what exactly the end state of becoming a "web app"
> would be.
> Does this literally mean that I should be able to go to (for example)
> "https://thunderbird.com/MyEmail" and use a fully-featured version of
> Thunderbird inside of Firefox, Chrome, and Edge (possibly using
> something along the lines of https://github.com/hiddentao/browsermail)?
> Or would this simply mean a push to move existing XUL and C++ components
> to HTML and Javascript, but still using the Gecko "shell" (not sure what
> the official term is, app runner? bootstrapper?) to make it a real
> desktop application now that Mozilla is pulling back on XUL?

As has been said in a few other responses, not the former but the latter.

> Or would the short-term idea be to push existing XUL/C++ to HTML/JS with
> the long-term goal being to open up the possibility of moving everything
> to a web app/HTML-based mobile app at a later time?

At the very least, the goal should be to allow running Thunderbird on a 
powerful Android tablet under a browser (but as a stand-alone 
application rather than an http:// link in a browser.) This is important 
because I think that we need to clearly provide a valuable user benefit 
to at least partially justify this effort. Refactoring is hard to sell.

> If the former (a real "website" web-app), and especially if this were
> done completely in HTML/CSS/Javascript (without a backend component) I
> would like to point out that this would open up Thunderbird to a whole
> new world of contributors who know the "web platform" and would like to
> contribute to Thunderbird, but who may not have the skills, drive, or
> patience to learn mercurial or the Mozilla build tools (or wait multiple
> hours for the codebase to compile O.O).

Actually this is also true of the latter. It is not the http:// starting 
point that provides access to the world of js/html development, it is 
the framework. That's why we start talking about react.js as possible 
basis for future development.

> In addition, wouldn't treating Thunderbird as essentially a website
> (even if there was a desktop/mobile version of it) align more with
> Mozilla's current focus on the web and the web platform? Not sure if you
> were getting at that in the original email, but from what little
> understanding I have of Mozilla's goals it seems like this could
> possibly help put Thunderbird back on their radar.

This is true, but it is not a primary motivation. I think that we need 
to do what we think is in the best interest of our users, subject to the 
ethical direction of the Mozilla Manifesto, without feeling some need to 
align with a web and Firefox-focused Mozilla Mission. If that ends up 
being in alignment with the Mozilla Mission, then perhaps that validates 
the Mission as a Good Idea, but it is not what is driving us.


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