Intent to de-support: traditional add-ons

Eyal Rozenberg eyalroz at
Thu Oct 3 19:35:02 UTC 2019

Andrei, with due respect, I'd like to partially disagree with what you
wrote, particularly (but not only) regarding statistics.

Before doing so, however, I want to ask the list of some clarification
regarding the methodology with which we gather usage statistics: Under
what circumstances; which users have stats collected; what happens to
people whose older versions don't know about ATN; etc. If someone could
write a few paragraphs about this (or send a link) I'd be grateful.

More to the point, though:

1. Quoting an annual 1-2% userbase growth rate does not say much about
what happened over the past few months, when a lot of extension support
was lost. Do you have stats for that?

2.  About being "non-representative" - that can be a sort of a false
truth. Example: If you write email using a right-to-left language like
Farsi, Arabic or Hebrew, your experience with TB is a constant
annoyance; it's quite uncomfortable to use before of mis-direction. So,
the BiDi Mail UI extension is essentially a must. However - there are
currently only < 2.5K users of this extension, according to
Christopher's statistics. This is not because users don't need/want it -
it's because the large number of potential users who might have used TB
had they known about it / seen TB with it - are simply unaware of it. If
there had been awareness, the extension user-base would have been
massively larger - since with the extension, the convenience balance
slants in favor of TB over other mail clients and some/most webmail apps
w.r.t. RTL text display.

What that means is that treating relatively-low-usage extensions as
non-representative is myopic; and not significantly catering to
extensibility blocks most of the potential of user base increase.

3. 1-2% annual user base growth is more of a stagnation than growth a
slight waning of the user base; the population in countries in which TB
is popular is growing at a higher rate than that, I would guess. I'm not
saying that's a bad thing considering the objective circumstances,

4. There is a huge difference between the part of the user base who use
Thunderbird because they made a decision to do so, and people who have
had Thunderbird pre-installed on their machine for some reason (e.g.
because they're in some organization with wise IT people). Making claims
regarding whether people tend to use or not use extensions, whether we
have growth or decline etc. should really be treating those two
categories of users separately - even if we can't place users in these
categories explicitly.

5. Low extension use is at least in part due to our not suggesting
highly-relevant extensions to users:
I believe devs should try to put some effort into figuring out whether
various extensions would be relevant on someone's system; and otherwise
at least suggest some statistically-popular ones based on the simpler
and more generic information (like locale, hardware, choice of OS and so
on). That would be especially neat for the "they preinstalled it for me"
crowd, because they would get to actually make some choices, and might
find something they like and excites them.

6. "the 5-10% of users who even install and use add-ons that aren't
Lightning." - that's a bold statement, that seems to contradict even
Christopher's partial numbers. Show your stats on this please.


On 03/10/2019 2:18, Andrei Hajdukewycz wrote:
> 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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