Summary of issues for new legal home for Thunderbird

R Kent James kent at
Sun Oct 2 23:22:16 UTC 2016

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

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
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.

Treasurer, Thunderbird Council

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