Summary of issues for new legal home for Thunderbird

Robert Kaiser kairo at
Thu Dec 22 23:56:39 UTC 2016

Ben Bucksch schrieb:
> 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.

My concern there is that they are very much geared towards a single 
product basically, and that is LibreOffice. I feel that if Thunderbird 
may join them, it will always just be an afterthought, ugly step-child 
or whatever you may call it, in case case, (much) lower priority than 
their (obvious) beloved baby and first priority that is LibreOffice.

In the end, TDF feel to me a lot like Mozilla, an organization that is 
awesome or protecting their area of work, but that is mostly about one 
single product, and has a risk of letting everything else fall over to 
push that one product instead (which isn't bad in itself but not sure if 
it's the best home for Thunderbird, esp. having been bitten by this once 

> 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.

SFC for example has a lot of experience with different structure of the 
multitude of different projects they have, and they leave any of those 
to decide their own governance structure internally while consulting 
them on that where needed and being able to take care of all the 
administrative work, including legal work (they have lawyers on staff 
for that). I have to mention though that I may be biased because I am a 
paying supporter of SFC - I still like what TDF is doing a lot as well 
though, I don't see support of them individually as an either/or. ;-)

> 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).

I agree that quite some time has gone by and decisions should be made. I 
also agree that creating a separate organization alone is not a good 
idea, it eats up a lot of time in administrative tasks, usually of 
people who can and should do development.

> 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.

I agree, but I see TDF and SFC both provided that equally, in somewhat 
different shapes. In any case, I think both have something good to 
offer, and can be a decent home for Thunderbird.

The direction to go for the software side is I think a harder decision 
because there's not some good options waiting with open hands.

And on this bit from the original post:

>> 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.

I agree that leadership is needed, and while I'm not sure if I could 
fill big shoes like that, if some project management, data analysis or 
so is needed, I'm open for part-time contracting (and maybe some 
volunteering if time and resources allow - but being a Mozilla Rep and 
paid jobs, as well as my own fun project and potentially some IRL stuff 
all compete with my volunteering resources).


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