Future Planning: Thunderbird as a Web App

Patrick Brunschwig patrick at enigmail.net
Sat Sep 19 15:48:52 UTC 2015


On 18.09.15 20:58, Kent James wrote:
[...]
> Also, in my discussion with an experienced outsider (Michael Meeks of
> The Document Foundation), he had this to say after observing our
> situation, which is quite accurate:
> 
> "AFAICS your fundamental problem is an engineering / community decision
> that doesn't match your resources whereby you run up this steep
> travellator trying to keep up with Mozilla changes which ( in theory )
> can provide a long-term benefit to make it easier to develop T-bird, but
> in doing so you sacrifice actually doing the development on T-bird, so
> that future ~never comes =)    Breaking that seems to me to be your top
> priority."
> 
> I fully agree with that, but I only see two choices: fork and freeze the
> Mozilla platform that we use, or migrate away from it. I am proposing
> the latter.

In my eyes the plans of Mozilla severely endanger the future of Thunderbird.

- If we migrate away from the Mozilla platform, we'll have to rewrite
everything that's currently in XPCOM, all GUIs, and a substantial part
of the JS-Code. That's an awful lot; my guess is 70 to 80% of the code.
This means nothing else than developing a completely new application(!).
It's obvious that requires a lot of manpower and a lot of time - both of
which we currently don't seem to have.

- OTOH, forking and freezing the platform does not seem like a long-term
solution. It would require Thunderbird to maintain the platform on it's
own. That's a huge challenge which would require quite some manpower
(which we again don't have). I honestly doubt that this will be feasible
in the long term.

I therefore think that if we want Thunderbird survive for more than just
a few years, we will have to migrate away from the Mozilla platform.
Given that the Mozilla plans are so short-term, the idea to fork and
freeze the platform for a limited time period seems to be the only way
to mitigate the risk of being too slow.

However, it should be clearly said as well: I'm certain that we will
loose a lot of the current addons (which I believe is a very important
reason for many of our users to have chosen Thunderbird). I for myself
cannot promise today that I will be able to keep up with the changes
that will be coming...

-Patrick



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