About the future of Thunderbird

Tristan Nitot

46

Jb Piacentino

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Jb Piacentino, the managing Director of Thunderbird, following the recent Thunderbird announcement.

TN : Hi Jb, I read on the Web that Thunderbird is dead. Is it true or is the rumor of Thunderbird’s death greatly exaggerated? ;-)

Jb: No, Thunderbird is not dead. We have announced a change in the way we develop new features for Thunderbird. Nothing will change for individual and enterprise users: Mozilla will continue to support and maintain Thunderbird. To be more specific, Mozilla will no longer focus on developing innovations for Thunderbird but will keep it safe and stable. Mozilla will also provide all the infrastructure required for new, community-developed features to be integrated in upcoming Thunderbird releases.

TN : So there will be a Thunderbird 14?

Jb: Yes of course. We have a solid plan to support Thunderbird until the second half of 2013 and are discussing how we support it beyond that date. 

TN: and, in the meantime?

Jb: We’ll see Thunderbird 15 (already available in alpha version), 16 and 17, etc.  We’ll see cool innovations landing such as Thunderbird Chat (instant messaging), additional Thunderbird Filelink and personalized email partners, as well as new community-driven features. Beyond that, Mozilla will accommodate community-contributed features when they become available.

TN: Do you know who the Thunderbird users are and what they want?

Jb: We  have a mix of consumer and enterprise users. Among the estimated 20+  millions users, we know there are many very large deployments of the  product, in corporations, governments and education. We have to find the  right set of features to satisfy both individual and enterprise users.

What Thunderbird users have in common is the need for a very stable and secure email product  – first  and foremost. For example, in very large enterprise, feature set  changes can create all sorts of problems, from certification to  deployment and training. Our consumer users are not in high demand of  innovation as well. 

However, we believe email experience can be  improved, for example by leveraging more Web services, as we did for Thunderbird Filelink. It is hard to  find the right balance, but as of now, we think users need a stable product and are fairly happy with what Thunderbird has to offer.

TN: I see quite a chasm between the expectations of Thunderbird users and Mozilla’s focus on innovation, Web and Mobile, with Firefox for Android and Firefox OS (aka Boot to Gecko). Does this have anything to do with this decision about Thunderbird?

Jb: Mozilla certainly focuses on the Web as the platform, as it’s where we, as a community, can make a difference. Mobile ecosystems are pretty much siloed and closed and we think that bringing the Web technologies and values to mobile can make mobile better. Thunderbird remains a very good desktop-only email client but it does not really align with this strategy. 

TN: Let me be the devil’s advocate for a second: why Mozilla does not drop Thunderbird altogether?

Jb: I believe that the plan we are proposing shows that despite this antagonism, Mozilla walks the talk: we are not dropping Thunderbird. To the contrary, we are creating the conditions for the product to continue to be safe and stable, and integrate community contributions when they become available. As a matter of fact, the early feedback from the community is encouraging and I believe there will be interesting development coming from volunteers and corporate contributors.

There is also a very strong ecosystems of Open Source consulting companies dedicated to supporting Enterprise deployments and I’m sure they will step up to satisfy their clients, thus improving Thunderbird.

TN: Will there be Mozilla employees working on Thunderbird in the future? Until when?

Jb: Yes, Mozilla will keep on supporting the Thunderbird project with paid staff, although they might be working only part time on the project.

TN: If you had a call to action to share with our readers, what would it be?

Jbit really depends of your interest and skills: 

 TN: thank you very much Jb for your time. As a Thunderbird user, It’s great to have this information directly from you. I’m looking forward the newer developments of Thunderbird!

Jb: Thank you !

Edit:

46 responses

  1. Pingback from NO. Thunderbird project is NOT dead / inactive / abandoned… | Spare WoTW Copy. on ::

    […] Another good link: About the future of Thunderbird. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in […]

  2. Alex wrote on ::

    In one instance he says that Thunderbird will not be innovating but follows it up quickly with “see cool innovations landing such as Thunderbird Chat”.

    1. Tristan Nitot wrote on :

      Well, some innovations and new features have been developed and are in the pipe (in Beta stage), so you will see them landing soon. But in the future, Mozilla will not invest development time to create more features. If the community wants to do it, then you’ll see such innovations in future version of Thunderbird. It really depends on the community on the long term.

    2. Stephanie Daugherty wrote on ::

      Right now, and in recent years, about half of the development work that goes into improving Thunderbird is done by volunteer community members and companies that rely on Thunderbird. These people are dedicated to the project and it’s continued existence, whether it’s their hobby or their job.

      What Mozilla is saying by this announcement is that priorities have shifted, that’s reality whether we like it or not, but there IS a continued commitment to support Thunderbird as far security and stability fixes, and finishing work already in progress. Mozilla also has significant infrastructure investment towards making collaborative development possible, which they have indicated will continue.

      That means in the long term, the future of Thunderbird is up to a community of passionate users and developers, and Mozilla is going to do it’s best to get out of the way and let them do what they do best, which is make Thunderbird better.

      Anyone can help, whether they are a programmer or just a passionate user – and this holds true for all Mozilla projects. http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/contribute/

  3. Kishor Gurtu wrote on :

    TL;DR Thunderbird is dead :)

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  5. machbio wrote on ::

    its great to know that mozilla will be supporting thunderbird forever and ever.. you could have kept the news internal and not created so much fuzz about it in the media ..

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  7. Greg wrote on :

    Firefox went to live because of the IE dominance in the corporate and private world. In the same idea, Thunderbird went to live to offer an alternative to the Exchange/Outlook pair domination (and is still widely used in the corporate world).
    We have a few very good alternative to Exchange outside (Kerio and Zimbra for instance) but
    Thunderbird lacks good Card/CalDav support which is a feature request that Mozilla has completely fail to deliver. And that’s were the real innovation was (think about it twice, please). Instead, we are seeing Thunderbird chat coming in. “Great”. Are you kidding?
    Furthermore, I don’t get Mozilla communication ATM. When I hear “What Thunderbird users have in common is the need for a very stable and secure email product – first and foremost.”, I just think the guy saying that is making fun of the users.
    Finally, as I said yesterday on Baker’s blog (comments), Mozilla should remove the Donate link on its website, as long as the long term goals are as unclear as they are now.

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  14. DominiqueD. wrote on :

    Thunderbird enables us to let exit our emails out of our email provider. I was thinking a Thunderbird++ may be a product to help us to exit our data from application clouds (like Twitter for example). That could be a Thunderbird evolution quite inline with Mozilla mission !

    To give an example, PrimeFaces has adopted a community funding for developing some given features, see http://www.primefaces.org/funding.html ; so, why not proposing a community funding for specific Thunderbird evolution, for example, the ones I proposed above, quite inline with Mozilla mission ?

  15. Pingback from List Mama » Mozilla’s Thunderbird not dead but sort of on life support on ::

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  16. Niles wrote on :

    Its good to know what Mozilla plans (or doesn’t plan) for Thunderbird. For me, it means I will start shopping for a new email client and a new browser despite the fact I have been a loyal user of Thunderbird and Firefox for many years.

    1. Stephanie Daugherty wrote on ::

      This got blown out of proportion by the leaked email on the topic, but Thunderbird is really far from dead because a large part of the work isn’t even financed by Mozilla. The community will continue as it always has, and Thunderbird will continue to get better.

      If you want to make sure of that, then get involved. http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/contribute/ You don’t have to be a programming guru, Thunderbird needs help from all kinds of users.

      1. Jim wrote on :

        Sure, they need regular users to file bug reports so that the developers can completely ignore them for years.

  17. Frank wrote on :

    For me it’s just more proof that the desktop is dead. Tablets are the way of the future which are here now. That huge box which sits on or under your desk is a dinosaur.

    1. Stephane Deschamps wrote on :

      Frank,

      This is going to sound kind of off-topic but some of us do type very lengthy emails and documents and so on and so forth. Tablets without a keyboard don’t do the trick. People not having a good bandwidth (/me waves hand) don’t/can’t rely too much on the cloud.

      So: no, the desktop is not dead; and no, not everyone relies on the cloud.

    2. Raven wrote on ::

      ..”That huge box which sits on or under your desk is a dinosaur.”..

      and he is one I ride on every day. And will continue to do so for the next 20 years. There is no way that I will use a tablet or a laptop for my daily work (working in IT). And there is no way I could be an efficient worker by relying on cloud-based email running on small screens with few resources.

      back to work now.

    3. Jim wrote on :

      If all you’re doing with your computer is bragging to your Twitter followers about how much your latest iDevice cost, sure. Some of us actually do real work, though.

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  34. LMongo wrote on :

    This is not a good development overall. Widely (freely) available clients that support open standards like Thunderbird are a necessity for the free (as in free speech) Internet. Having all of our data locked up in the cloud, controlled by a few corporations is a recipe for disaster. It is not bad enough that so much of our media outlets have gone digital, but now the next step is to kill off software that at least allows many people to download and “own” some their data. Nothing good can come of this. Maybe it is time to go back to print media, at least you can control a local copy of an actual book.

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  37. Jim wrote on :

    So, in other words, Thunderbird is dead.

    Sigh. What happened to Mozilla? Everything’s going downhill lately.

  38. Floria Mcallen wrote on ::

    thx for interesting article!

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