Thunderbird to fly the nest

Mozilla has announced that it is to divest its Thunderbird email client in order to focus its efforts on Firefox.

Thunderbird to fly the nest

Mozilla Corporation CEO Mitchell Baker announced Thunderbird is to move to a “new, separate organisational setting” that she believes will allow developers and users to determine its future.

“The Thunderbird effort is dwarfed by the enormous energy and community focused on the web, Firefox and the ecosystem around it,” she explains. “As a result, Mozilla doesn’t focus on Thunderbird as much as we do browsing and Firefox and we don’t expect this to change in the foreseeable future.

“We are convinced that our current focus – delivering the web, mostly through browsing and related services – is the correct priority. At the same time, the Thunderbird team is extremely dedicated and competent, and we all want to see them do as much as possible with Thunderbird.”

Baker outlines three options for a new Thunderbird development structure. One is to create a entirely new non-profit, which would offer maximum independence for Thunderbird but, she says, would be organisationally complex.

A second option is to create a new subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation for Thunderbird, which would keep the Mozilla Foundation involved but may mean that Thunderbird continues to be neglected in favour of Firefox.

The final option is to recast Thunderbird as community project, similar to SeaMonkey and Camino, and set up a small independent services and consulting company to continue development. But she is concerned about how the Thunderbird product, project and company would interact.

Lead Thunderbird developer Scott MacGregor favours the third option, as this would allow him and fellow coders to continue to use Mozilla Foundation infrastructure, such as the CVS repository and Bugzilla, and the new company would perform a similar role for Thunderbird as the Mozilla Corporation does for Firefox, developing, releasing and supporting the application.

“Creating a separate independent company focused on the Thunderbird mission is the best way for us to take care of our users, while having the most flexibility to grow and support our mission,” he claims. “Our vision is to create an independent company responsible for developing future versions of Thunderbird, supporting our users, and providing choice and innovation in the mail space. This company would embody the same principles that make Mozilla great: dedication to open source, transparency, community involvement, and doing right by our users.”

MozillaZine notes that the decision to set Thunderbird free is not entirely surprising. Lead Firefox developer Ben Goodger and Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich both suggested it in April.

The change in Thunderbird’s status will not have any immediate impact on the Penelope project which is building an alternative open source email client based on Eudora.

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