The big Thunderbird migrations and qbrt

Axel Grude axel.grude at
Fri Mar 17 23:01:50 UTC 2017

If you are thinking of fundraising for it, keep me in mind, I would love a part time 
job for the conversion! I have some experience with C++ and obviously know the JS side 
from my Addon development.


*Axel Grude <mailto:axel.grude at>*
Music Production and Composition
Thunderbird Add-ons Developer (QuickFolders 
quickFilters <>, 
QuickPasswords <>, Zombie Keys 
<>, SmartTemplate4 
Mozilla Addon Reviewer
Visit my YouTube Channel <> for email 
productivity tips Get Thunderbird!
> *Subject:*The big Thunderbird migrations and qbrt
> *From:*R Kent James <kent at> <mailto:kent at>
> *To:*Tb-planning
> *Sent: *Friday, 17/03/2017 19:13:29 19:13 GMT ST +0000 [Week 11]
> Myk Melez, who has been pushing various ideas for embedded Gecko, has a new twist on 
> his plans:
> Essentially this "reuses an existing Gecko runtime (and its existing APIs) while 
> simplifying the process of developing and packaging a desktop app using web 
> technologies." He previously had tried to develop a gecko-flavored version of 
> Electron called Positron, but abandoned that. The main difference is that Positron 
> tried to duplicate the existing Electron APIs, while qbrt simply packages the 
> existing Gecko APIs into a desktop app package, relying on XPCOM and web apis to 
> provide the equivalent to the Electron APIs.
> Thunderbird essentially faces three relatively separate challenges in converting its 
> backend away from the current binary recompile of Firefox: C++->JS, XUL->HTML, and 
> XPCOM->SomethingElse. qbrt AFAIUI uses a stock Firefox compile, so any C++ used by 
> Thunderbird would need to be converted to JS. But the other two conversions could 
> wait. So this could serve as an interesting intermediate step to conversion. We 
> could even hope that build related issues would be vastly simplified if we only 
> needed to package non-binary files.
> Having spent the last year doing C++->JS conversions in ExQuilla, I have pretty good 
> metrics on how difficult that is. Scaling to all of Thunderbird C++, it represents 
> about 10 person-years of effort. That is a much more imaginable amount of effort 
> than the roughly three times that which would be required to do a complete 
> conversion of all three technologies.
> There is still a lot of uncertainty about the direction of Gecko. The platform team 
> seems absolutely determined to rip anything out of Gecko that is not directly used 
> by either Firefox or required by WebExtensions. It's hard to believe that there are 
> not going to be some gotchas in the core C++ that we will need to work around. 
> Perhaps it would be possible to have an EmbeddedApps branch of mozilla-central that 
> would not be difficult to maintain. Then there is the moving target of what is still 
> left of XUL and XPCOM as they move to eventually eliminate those. Challenges.
> Still, we need to do something. I think that we should seriously considering allying 
> with Myk and qbrt to try to move forward a gecko-based desktop app environment. With 
> enough partners, that might help convince the platform team that this is worth 
> supporting, at least minimally.
> :rkent
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