Intent to de-support: traditional add-ons

Andrei Hajdukewycz sancus at thunderbird.net
Wed Oct 2 23:18:49 UTC 2019


On 10/2/2019 8:49 AM, Will wrote:
> Yup - unfortunately we are part of that 2.5% and older versions ARE
> relevant to this discussion (I wonder how many were force upgraded to
> 60+ and wanted to go back but didn't know how, and how many were so
> angry they just dumped TB altogether?)
>
> And the reason is that we can't get updated extensions from the
> developers, nor find anyone willing to update them, even for $$$$$
>
> They are not even that complicated, but..... I just can't find anyone,
> but then I guess that is a direct response to the waning TB user base.
> Less users, less developers.
Just for reference: Starkly unlike Firefox the TB user base is NOT 
waning. In fact, it is steadily growing. Very slowly - on the order of 
1-2% per year - but definitely growing. The popular conception that 
Thunderbird is dying or that add-on related decisions have a significant 
affect on the user base are incorrect. In fact, Thunderbird's long term 
growth rates are healthier than Firefox's even though our total number 
of users is only about 12% of theirs depending on how you do the math.

I completely understand that it's annoying to be told that old versions 
are not relevant, but this is not done because we're trying to be mean 
or because we don't care. It's just that there is a stark reality -- 
when infrastructure is discontinued and versions reach a certain age, we 
completely lose the ability to do builds. And we can't just "spend the 
time to do 52 builds again", because that would have a devastating cost 
on development for the majority of users, which has to take priority if 
Thunderbird is expected to survive.

There is a common attitude among add-on users and users of old versions 
that they are representative of the users of Thunderbird, when it's 
actually the opposite. They are, in fact, edge cases which tend to 
consume a lot of time per user from developers. And the business case 
for spending 1 hour of developer time on 2% of users compared to 
spending that same amount of time to benefit 98% of users should be clear.

Of course we don't make decisions like this all the time. We care about 
the community. The fact that legacy add-ons were even preserved at all 
in 68 in any form is a testament to how much we care about all of our 
users. Huge amounts of developer time were spent to make this happen, 
and that only benefits the 5-10% of users who even install and use 
add-ons that aren't Lightning.

I am sorry that you're stuck on old versions due to add-ons that you 
can't easily update, but as much as I do personally care about users, at 
a certain point if software isn't doing what you need it to do, it only 
makes sense to just go find new software that will do what you need. And 
if that's not Thunderbird, that's OK. We can't spend a herculean effort 
to keep every single user. If we tried to, it wouldn't even be 
successful in the end, because misusing our time that heavily would be 
the actual thing that would kill the project dead.

Andrei
Thunderbird Infrastructure Engineer


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