Summary of issues for new legal home for Thunderbird

Ben Bucksch ben.bucksch at
Fri Dec 9 19:44:54 UTC 2016

Hey Kent and TB Council,

I'm going to revive this thread, because I think it's a pressing issue.

I'm very happy for Thunderbird to receive donations in this order of 
magnitude, which means there are options to carry it forward.

As for the future home, I would appreciate the option of TDF.

They have done an awesome job with LibreOffice. They took an old and 
aging codebase, and revived it, and made a great product out of it 
that's really presentable. They also creating a vivid community around 
it, which is also a great achievement all by itself. Today, LibreOffice 
is a decent product with a future. This is something that both Oracle 
and Apache Foundation failed to do.

One of the differences of LibreOffice is that it puts freedom and free 
software values first. This is what excites and attracts contributors. 
They believe in the mission. This is something that Apache failed with, 
because it appears to me that they have a more laid-back, hands-off 
approach, and this wasn't as appealing to contributors. TDF basically 
empowers the individual, but gives this an orgnisational structure. For 
example, their government structure is deliberately designed to prevent 
take-overs from companies or strong individuals.

And I would pose that as one of the big advantages over the alternatives 
of e.g. SFC. The Thunderbird project is still very young, and I don't 
think we have the experience it takes to form a successful project from 
nothing. There are a lot of delicate government questions to answer, 
with far-reaching consequences. There's also the risk of copying some 
other project structure which is less resilient.

We need something that guarantees the freedom and live of the 
Thunderbird community, and the TDP structure is designed for that.

There's also the time factor. It's now 1 year ago that we were 
discussing about this very question. We had the very same options - TDP, 
SFC or new foundation - on the table. The last year has gone by, and 
there's still no decision. It makes me scared to think how it would go 
when forming a new structure (even when it's within SFC).

Frankly, I think this project is best-advised by taking an existing 
structure that is known to both guarantee freedom and create a 
flourishing, engaged community. To my limited knowledge, TDP is the best 
option for that, and you can consider yourself very happy that they want 
to be your home, and would accept you with open arms. Take these arms!

Please make a decision, rather sooner than later.


R Kent James wrote on 03.10.2016 01:22:
> A lot has happened in the last couple of months that affect the future 
> of Thunderbird. I'd like to bring you up to date, and ask for 
> additional input.
> Financially, we started asking for donations, and beginning in July 
> added a request for donations to the Thunderbird start page. As of the 
> end of August, 2016 (after two months of asking on our start page), we 
> had available funds of $176,000. It will be awhile before we can 
> really determine what is likely to be a sustainable donation level, 
> but it is fairly clear that we have a supportive community who is 
> willing to fund a small group of people working on Thunderbird.
> Concerning a long-term legal and financial home, a team of us visited 
> the conference for LibreOffice in Brno, Czech Republic and met with 
> the board of The Document Foundation (TDF) to evaluate whether there 
> is a fit between Thunderbird and TDF as a possible long-term home. 
> Generally the meetup in Brno went well, and we left satisfied that TDF 
> is a viable partner that has a lot to offer for Thunderbird.
> But there are also other alternatives. Software Freedom Conservancy 
> (SFC) is still under serious consideration. Also, the likely resources 
> available to Thunderbird as a project seem fairly comparable to other 
> successful open source Foundations (and an order of magnitude higher 
> than the typical SFC project for example), so we also are considering 
> either a short-term or long-term plan to have some sort of independent 
> organization (although Simon Phipps recommended against that in his 
> report 
> <>, 
> at least in the short run).
> The Thunderbird Council met to discuss the Brno visit, and try to 
> understand what our actions should be. While there were diverse 
> opinions on the proper direction, trying to synthesize the issues, 
> really it comes down to two questions:
> 1)    Does Thunderbird believe that the long-term best home is likely 
> to be an independent organization (typically but not necessarily a 
> Foundation), or are we better off allied with others legally and 
> culturally?
> 2)    Does the existing Thunderbird team have the capacity (both in 
> available skill sets as well as leadership) to transition to function 
> independently of Mozilla? If we are lacking, which organization is 
> likely to provide those skills or leadership? Or is this something we 
> are likely to successfully attract, either as volunteers or as hired 
> staff?
> As of today we have not reached a recommendation about direction for a 
> legal and financial home. At some point we will reach a decision, and 
> at that point we will likely need to coordinate with our future home 
> the best way to announce such a decision. While we strive to maintain 
> as much transparency and public input into this process as we can, at 
> some point a quiet period may be necessary, but we are not there yet.
> We would appreciate comments on these issues, either generally or with 
> respect to your personal availability to be part of a transition process.
> In addition, one question we struggled with was how difficult it would 
> be to acquire the services of someone with the skill set to lead a 
> transition (which is likely to be needed regardless of what path we 
> take, but a stronger candidate would make independence a more 
> achievable goal). Let's call this the Executive Director role. If you 
> have any insights into this role, including 1) examples of similar 
> open-source organizations that hired such a position, or 2) specific 
> suggestions of people (including yourself) who might fit the role, we 
> would appreciate hearing from you, either publicly or privately.
> :rkent
> Treasurer, Thunderbird Council
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