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?
Jb: it really depends of your interest and skills:
- If you’re interested in discussing the future Thunderbird governance, you may want to head to the Governance Wiki page and follow the instructions. Our plan is to make progress throughout the Summer and finalize the governance model early September.
- If you want to contribute code to Thunderbird, please hop to https://developer.mozilla.org/en/Thunderbird/ . You will also find interesting suggestions for innovations on the UpForGrabs page. In addition, support always needs help, as well as Quality Assurance.
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 !