What happened to hiring an architect?

Axel Grude axel.grude at gmail.com
Fri Dec 9 23:22:06 UTC 2016

Dear Ben,

> The problem is: There's no way to decouple Thunderbird from XUL or from XPCOM, so 
> that's the end of Thunderbird as we know it. 


And for all my Addons. I may be able to port my Firefox addons to e10s but once XUL 
becomes deprecated I may lose interest in them. I can't even imagine the Thunderbird 
ones without XPCOM. So I am still hoping on a fork - Postbox could do it and they 
continually innovated their features; why should it be impossible with Thunderbird?

+1 still for hiring an Architect. And hopefully some thinking about how XPCOM can be 
wrapped in an API that is more mail centric.


*Axel Grude <mailto:axel.grude at gmail.com>*
Software Developer
Thunderbird Add-ons Developer (QuickFolders 
quickFilters <https://addons.mozilla.org/thunderbird/addon/quickfilters/>, 
QuickPasswords <https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/addon/quickpasswords/>, Zombie Keys 
<https://addons.mozilla.org/thunderbird/addon/zombie-keys/>, SmartTemplate4 
AMO Editor
Visit my YouTube Channel <https://www.youtube.com/c/thunderbirddaily> for productivity 
tips Get Thunderbird!
> *Subject:*Re: What happened to hiring an architect?
> *From:*Ben Bucksch <ben.bucksch at beonex.com>
> *To:*Tb-planning
> *Sent: *Friday, 09/12/2016 20:25:37 20:25 GMT ST +0000 [Week 49]
> R Kent James wrote on 29.09.2016 19:13:
>> I made an argument to Mozilla, that I believe was largely accepted, that said that 
>> consulting on a future platform for Thunderbird is not really what we need.
> I'm sorry to object here, but that statement couldn't be more off.
> Sorry, for being so harsh, but I think this needs to be put very clearly. I say this 
> with 17+ years of Thunderbird development experience, and having built several 
> commercial XUL-based applications in the meantime, some of them widely used. I care 
> deeply about Thunderbird, and I want it to live on in the future. This is why I 
> cannot be silent on this point.
> Thunderbird is facing the fact that in just 3 Firefox releases, XUL extensions are 
> deprecated, and in 7 releases, in less than 1 year, XUL extensions will be killed 
> entirely for Firefox. If Mozilla does that, then for a reason: They want to change 
> the underlying platform, away from XUL and XPCOM. And they will, that's the declared 
> plan.
> https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2016/11/23/add-ons-in-2017/
> So, in 1 year, Gecko 57 is no longer a viable basis for Thunderbird. Thunderbird's 
> foundation will fall underneath it. This is a given.
> The problem is: There's no way to decouple Thunderbird from XUL or from XPCOM, so 
> that's the end of Thunderbird as we know it. The whole codebase intrinsically relies 
> on these 2 technologies. We also know that you have no chance to maintain backports 
> of critical security fixes to an older Gecko, because it needs very specialized 
> knowledge in Mozilla internals and in security, and many with more money and with 
> more expertise have tried and failed. Nobody managed to do that, ever. You can't 
> maintain your own Gecko, with security backports, forever. So, forking isn't an 
> option, either. With luck and help from Mozilla in form of ESR and similar, it might 
> buy you a year, but no more. So, we'll be seeing the cliff in 1 year from now, with 
> an additional little life support option for another year or so. That gives TB only 
> 2 years from now, 3 max.
> So, our only long-term option is to rewrite. And this *is* the job for an architect. 
> That is the job definition. And it's crucially necessary. This codebase is over 20 
> years old. It was created in the early days of the Internet and Web, the oldest 
> parts are from 1995 or so, and then the majority from 1998-2000, the XUL rewrite. 
> Back in 1998, during the XUL rewrite, it had an architect, done in part by Alec 
> Flett. Today, with XUL going away, it needs to be re-architectured again, with 
> current state of art and situation of the world. A lot has changed since then: The 
> web platform has matured. Mobile appeared and is taking over the world. People are 
> using WhatsApp and Instagram instead of email to stay connected. I'm not saying we 
> should build an IM client, or a webmail client, but we need a fresh start with all 
> that change in mind. We're facing a world who doesn't know what an desktop email 
> client *is*. We have a few *billion* users out there who are left out there with 
> nothing better than GMail and WhatsApp. We need something better.
> Have you ever seen a house that had a room attached here 30 years later, and a 
> garage attached there, and a winter garden over there? It works, to some degree, but 
> it's neither beautiful, nor very functional for its inhabitants. You have to go 
> long, windy hallways to do what you need to do. Sounds familiar? Thunderbird has the 
> same problem. It makes me do work that I shouldn't need to do.
> We do need somebody to take the big picture, makes a coherent architecture, and at 
> least puts that up for discussion. That person needs to know their job, and should 
> have done that before, with success, preferably in that magnitude. Architecture is 
> not something you can do piece-meal. It needs both the big picture vision, to make a 
> beautiful, coherent whole, and the attention to detail to know what's realistic. 
> Only then will it work well and stand the test of time and be liked.
> You absolutely need an architect to face the future. And you need it now. The 
> transition project needs to happen now, because it takes 2-3 years to finish. Such a 
> big project needs to start with a plan. That is the job of an architect, to help you 
> build that plan. Please don't refuse offers of experienced, competent architects 
> that Mozilla offers you.
> Ben
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> tb-planning at mozilla.org
> https://mail.mozilla.org/listinfo/tb-planning

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