Donations (was: My comment on Exchange Calendar as it applies to financial issues of Thunderbird)

Ben Bucksch ben.bucksch at
Mon May 1 18:05:02 UTC 2017

R Kent James wrote on 01.05.2017 16:40:
> Adding EWS as a "supported" protocol to core Thunderbird does not 
> magically make the resources appear to maintain it. This particular 
> addon, Exchange Calendar, is a really good example of the problems. 
> The work required is substantial, a free-as-in-beer developer can 
> enjoy working on it for awhile, but then there is the inevitable 
> burnout followed by periods of poor support, which we seem to be in 
> the third phase of now. Personally, I believe that something 
> mission-critical like Thunderbird (and critical addons such as this 
> one) deserve better than that if people are going to rely on them to 
> get real work done.
> But this gets at the core of what people mean by "open source" and 
> "free software". There is always that hope that there are lots of 
> potentially motivated volunteers that could be attracted, if somehow 
> we just do things better.
> Personally I don't believe in that, but I am in a minority - and I get 
> plenty of flak for charging for ExQuilla. (Note I am the ExQuilla 
> author as well as a member of the Thunderbird Council). The solution 
> that I think makes sense is something like a non-profit user coop, 
> where there would be enough benefits to the users to pay for 
> membership, the code could continue open source, but somebody would be 
> paid to keep the lights on. We're collecting substantial donations 
> now, and that is helping alot, but not enough to imagine that EWS 
> could be added to core Calendar and supported.

Hey Kent,

I agree that people who critically rely on a piece of software should 
also be willing to pay a reasonable amount for it. Free Software doesn't 
mean the work is done all by itself.

How about simply offering recurring donations on the donations page, and 
explaining to users why we need that? It's not obvious to them why the 
software needs maintenance just to keep the lights on. Once we explain 
it in a way that they understand ('we fix security bugs, we fix other 
bugs etc, and that takes several employees just to get that done'), they 
might be willing to make recurring donations. They should be in the area 
of $30/year or so. If 1 in 1000 of our users does that, we have already 
significant progress.

There are a few parameters to experiment with: How to explain it, how 
long the explanation is, which donation mounts to suggest etc., and to 
test each idea how it works.


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