Mozilla launches Internet mail and communications initiative

David Ascher joins Mozilla to lead new organization

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF. – September 17, 2007 – Mozilla today announced a new initiative to stimulate innovation in Internet mail and communications. Mozilla plans to develop Internet communications software based on the Thunderbird product, code and brand. The new initiative also aims to nurture a robust developer ecosystem in order to drive improvements through open source and community innovation, in the tradition of the Firefox web browser.

Dr. David Ascher, currently CTO and VP Engineering of ActiveState, will join Mozilla to establish a new company focused on mail. Ascher has been an active member of the Mozilla community since 2000, initially as the lead of Komodo, a Mozilla-based integrated development environment (IDE). He is an established leader in the open source community, including his role as a director of the Python Software Foundation.

“Innovating in mail and communications advances our vision of choice across the spectrum of Internet software,” said Mitchell Baker, Chair, Mozilla Foundation. “David has been a respected member of the Mozilla community for many years and we’re excited that he is joining Mozilla to lead this important effort.”

In July 2007, Baker delivered a call to action soliciting community feedback about the future of Thunderbird. After an active public discussion, the Mozilla Foundation board approved the creation of a distinct new Mozilla Foundation subsidiary dedicated to developing, innovating and improving Internet mail and communication software.

Mozilla will provide US$3 million seed funding to establish this new company.

Millions of people around the world rely on Thunderbird as their primary mail application. Nothing will change for current Thunderbird users. Mozilla will continue to provide Thunderbird users with regular security and stability updates as it establishes its new initiative, and remains committed to the needs of Thunderbird users.

About Mozilla

Mozilla is a global community dedicated to building free, open source products and technologies that improve the online experience for people everywhere. We work in the open with a highly disciplined, transparent and cooperative development process, under the umbrella of the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. As a wholly owned subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation organizes the development and marketing of Mozilla products. This unique structure has enabled Mozilla to financially support and cultivate competitive, viable community innovation. For more information, visit www.mozilla.com.

FAQ

What is being announced?

Mozilla is launching a new mail and communications software initiative. This effort will be led by David Ascher, current CTO and VP Engineering, ActiveState, who will be joining Mozilla. David will lead the effort to create a new company focused on driving innovation in Internet mail and communication systems and to nurture the growth of a robust open source community. Mozilla is seeding the new initiative with $3M in funding. The new company will build on the Thunderbird product, code and brand.
What is mail and communications?
Thunderbird mail, calendaring, news via RSS. Broadly: how people communicate with each other via the Internet.
Why are you doing this?
To create a home for people with specific focus on email and Internet communications, and allow that group to proceed separately from the needs of Firefox.
How will this initiative reinvigorate Mozilla’s mail efforts?
We are increasing our investment in mail to provide a focused home for Thunderbird/mail community – both employees and non-employee participants. This gives the new initiative the ability to act quickly, with only mail/communications in mind. This is not possible while a part of an organization that also includes browsing and Firefox.
How will the new organization become self-sustaining?
Mozilla is providing significant seed funding so that the organization can begin its life by focusing on great products that help people. Our goal is that over time the new organization develops additional funding sources to complement Mozilla investment.
Will Mozilla provide more than the $3M if more money is needed later?
Very possibly. As the organization develops we’ll look at what it is doing, what it has accomplished, what investment is needed and what funding is necessary to fund the organization.
How many users does Thunderbird have?
5-10 million users worldwide.
Does Thunderbird generate revenue now?
No, it does not.
Will the new organization offer revenue generating support services?
The leaders of the new organization will review options for generating revenue and determine the best course of action.
Is Mozilla planning to develop an IM client?
At this point, it would be premature to rule out any form of communication technology.
How will the current Thunderbird developers be involved?
We expect the current developers (Scott MacGregor and David Bienvenu) to continue to be the module owners for Thunderbird and Mozilla mail codebases.
Will the Mozilla Corporation focus only on Firefox now?
No. The Mozilla Corporation is about the web as an open platform. Its current product is Firefox, and the Mozilla platform that underlies Firefox. There may be other products in the future.
Are you launching a new mail initiative because of Google and Gmail?
No. Google has not been involved in the decision process in any way.
Why not hire more people to work on Thunderbird within Mozilla?
The issues around mail & communications are different than the issues around the web. It makes sense to have a different organization tackling the different problems, while still remaining aligned with Mozilla principles and practices. The investment in the mail space is increasing; we believe it is best to do this by empowering a group focused on mail and communication.
What’s the timeframe for launching the new mail focused company?
It may be a few months before we get the details worked out to be able to operate the new company effectively.
What happens to current Thunderbird users?
We will provide ongoing security and stability updates for current Thunderbird users. We have no intention of leaving the millions of Thunderbird users without support. In the short term, users won’t see any changes. Security updates, download services, forums, etc., will remain the same. In the long term, having an organization focused on email will mean that Thunderbird will be able to evolve faster to user needs. Thunderbird will remain a Mozilla project.
Will calendaring support be built in to Thunderbird?
One of the initial tasks will be to figure out the product vision for Thunderbird, based on community input. We will be working with the calendaring community to figure out what makes sense in the context of the new organization.
What will the new organization be called?
We don’t know yet.
Will the new organization be hiring additional staff to work on Thunderbird?
Yes!
Is desktop mail still relevant in the age of webmail?
While webmail has made great progress in recent years, millions of people still prefer to use rich clients with operating system integration, full offline support, no ads, etc. We think that webmail and desktop mail are complementary, and that users value the ability to choose how to read email.
Where do I look for ongoing news about the new organization? How do I get involved?
Join the Thunderbird newsgroup, read the existing Thunderbird forums, follow MozillaZine for updates, and be sure to check out David Ascher’s blog.