More on the Sunbird/Lightning decision

Our announcement that we’re very short on actual developers has already raised quite a stir. I want to give some feedback to some of the questions that were already raised and also elaborate a little more on the situation that we’re in.
First the feedback part:

  • Cantalou asked: In your opinion, did you get so far enough support from Mozilla Messaging?
    Yes. Absolutely.
  • Various users suggested that we should dump Lightning in favor of Sunbird
    That would be worse than what we’re doing right now. Looking at the download numbers, Lightning is about twice as popular than Sunbird nowadays, so dumping Lightning would probably turn away many more people than dumping Sunbird. In addition Lightning, due to its integrated nature, has many features that Sunbird currently lacks, which would need to be re-implemented in Sunbird to make it a viable option (e.g. addressbook integration, LDAP integration, ability to send and receive mails).
  • jakyra asked: Could you make the next version of Lightning work on Ubuntu?
    Lightning already works fine on Ubuntu. The problem is that Lightning needs some system libraries that aren’t installed by default on Ubuntu. Our system requirements page lists the necessary requirements. If you make sure everything is in place *before* installing Lightning, everything should work fine.
  • neandr asked: Can Lightning 1.x be installed ontop of Firefox/Thunderbird/XULrunner?
    It would certainly be possible to develop Lightning in such a way, that it would be easily installable into Firefox, Thunderbird or every other XULrunner-based application. However, we do not think that this would be an effective use of our development time. That being said, if you (neandr) or someone else is interested in making this happen, you’re more than welcome to do this!

Various users were forthcoming with ideas about feature additions. To answer this let me use a quote from Philipp’s blog post yesterday:

This is really a tremendous opportunity for anyone who is interested and willing to help make a difference here for the project and its hundreds of thousands of users — get involved!

The bottom line is: With no full-time developers on board and only a handful of part-time contributors, there’s no way that we’re going to implement stuff like Exchange support, improved task management, device synchronization, far-reaching performance improvements, etc. in the foreseeable future.

This can only happen, if you make it happen. New features do not materialize out of thin air, they appear because someone is willing and committed enough to invest time and effort to make something happen. Or to use a famous (and slightly adjusted) quote from JFK: “Ask not what the Calendar project can do for you, ask what you can do for the Calendar project!”

So get in touch, either on IRC (#calendar channel on, our developer newsgroup ( or via an e-mail to Philipp or me (our mail addresses can be found on our team page).

I hope to hear from you soon


  1. Hi, How close are you working together with Spicebird? ( )
    Do you think that many users of Sunbird will switch to Lightning related project like Spicebird? This way you could at least keep the users within the “larger community”.
    And the last question. Are there other project like Spicebird that could contribute code to Lighting?

  2. At least on Mandriva Lightning is dead easy to install as a package is available in the official repo :
    [admin@info1 linux-wizard]$ urpmq –list -r | grep lightning

  3. >> The bottom line is: With no full-time developers on board and only a handful of part-time contributors, there’s no way that we’re going to implement stuff like Exchange support, improved task management, device synchronization, far-reaching performance improvements, etc. in the foreseeable future.
    Does anyone have connections to perhaps have run a story soliciting help? Perhaps getting the word out could bring in more contributors.

  4. What happened to the guys at Sun?
    I was under the impression that there was a small team of developers at Sun working on Lightning specifically.
    Has Sun stopped their involvement?

  5. If Thunderbird has hundreds of thousands of users, is there not a way to solicit donations? $1 per person would correspond to enough salary at least for a full time employee.

  6. I use thunderbird and sunbird. The main reason I prefer Sunbird to lightning is because you can have your email on one monitor and your calendars on the other (I like to be able to see my calendar at a glance when reading emails) Other than that I can’t see why switching to lightning is a problem.
    I guess it is time we all stepped up – I have been meaning to get on-board for over 3 or so years and I’m sure there are more people like me out there..

  7. Just to comment on your mention of Exchange support. I don’t think this is nearly as important as supporting things that allow people to ditch exchange all together. Basically that means working better with calendar servers to better facilitate collaboration.

  8. Ian (and anyone else for that matter!), if you give me your Email I’ll send you some links on how to get started!
    Looking forward to your contributions!

  9. “…so dumping Lightning would probably turn away many more people than dumping Sunbird.”
    If Sunbird is killed then there is no reason for me to visit this site.
    Sorry for being an anonimous visitor.

  10. I prefer Sunbird which I have used for a few years. I just tried Lightning 0.9 for a day or two and it was just way too awkward and poorly integrated. It just looked wrong.
    It’s going to be sad to see Sunbird go. I can understand why and all. But it’s still unfortunate.

  11. I forgot to mention that Mozilla went as far as to trademark Mozilla Sunbird. If I understand it correctly, Mozilla Lightning was not trademarked. I thought Sunbird was going to go a long way.

  12. Hello Philipp and Calendar Team,
    I am very few spare time but I have still some knowledge left of css and javascript even if they are a bit rusty but If I can help even a bit… I will be glad.
    For me the most difficult things to step in is:
    ok I found a bug in bugzilla saying it would be an easy fix but what file to change, etc…
    Second is for testing it would be good to know where we can populate data into the test thunderbird+lightning with some fake or so emails/contacts/events/tasks
    Kind REgards

  13. Like I have already posted on David’s blog:
    Maybe Thunderbird could actively ask during installation if the user wants to download and add Lightning.
    You all did a very fine job with both Sunbird and Lightning. Keep up the good work!
    @Philipp: I was happy to see you taking care of bug #460252

  14. I used sunbird since Ver 02. The main reason for sunbird was that it is a single prog without email function (Dont like viruses an so on on a calendar application).
    Most impromevent went into lightning since years. A friend of mine phones me yesterday and said I cannot see my calendar, because outlook is not starting – most probably because of a virus.
    So you see: There a good reasons to seperate calendar and email-software.
    If sunbird will be stopped there is no more need to use mozilla. May will change now to outlook.
    Does anybody knows a other calendar software similar to sunbird without the sun-guys, which only wants to get the ideas out of the projects?

  15. Obviously many people prefer lightning (although this blog suggest many also prefer sunbird).
    Even so, is still seems that ending sunbird is strategically the wrong thing to do because the future of the calendar project then becomes reliant on the success of thunderbird. Of course it also alienates anyone who uses an alternative email program. This is a great shame at this point in time because sunbird has made huge progress (far more in the last 2 years than thunderbird).
    I worry, reading between the lines of this post and David Ascher’s, that the calendar project is basically being pushed to fit with what the Thunderbird project needs. It seems as though resources are being redirected to Thunderbird and the calendar project is being reduced to a feature that will be used to promote thunderbird rather than an entity in itself.
    If it wasn’t for these long term strategic issues going with the most popular out of sunbird or lightning would make sense. As is I would stick with sunbird and wait to see if thunderbird is able to put in resources to keep lightning going.
    That’s assuming, of course, that the calendar project itself is making these decisions and not someone else.

  16. Hi,
    I have used Firefox and Thunderbird on Windows for some time, but always felt that the lack of a calendar was a bit of a drawback to thunderbird. I tend to use Google Calendar. I am looking to migrate my personal and academic work across to Ubuntu Linux, because I have had enough of being ripped off through Windows. I have tinkered with linux for several years, but never felt all the features I needed were easily available (e.g. EndNote). One of the advantages of Google Calendar is that it is available wherever I am – but it is limited. I was quite keen to try out Sunbird/Lightning – but it seems that these don’t have the capacity to tie-in with Google-Calendar. Is that correct? I have about ten years experience in IT, (UNIX, NT, SQLserver, Informix, Oracle) as well as GUI development (VB and others). I’d be happy to help out with any work on this project, if I can. I have never paid for the use of Mozilla products, but would be willing to help out in some other way. I run about eight PC’s running XP, Vista and Ubuntu. I use gnome on linux, have one PC set up as a LAMP & SAMBA server.

  17. Too bad for sunbird, but I agree that integration between mail and calendar is what people are really looking for.
    I would like to have an answer to Dave’s question : does Sun stop his involvement in sunbird/lightning ?
    @Philipp : “I’ll send you some links on how to get started!”… Are this links confidential or, if you not already did, maybe you could put them somewhere like : ?

  18. Found instructions for google on google calendar site – works fine.

  19. Thank you all for the wonderful work you have done. I agree with the tough decisions about prioritization you have had to make. I think that with limited resources Lightning should be the focus even if that means discontinuing Sunbird. I also agree that full integration with Thunderbird should be the top priority, with the goal of having Lightning ship with Thunderbird by default.

  20. I would recommend to those who are judging Lightning by the .9 release to look at the latest nightly of Thunderbird and Lightning and the integration, particularly how the tabs are utilized.
    I’m definitely looking forward to the final releases of both TB 3 and Lighting 1.0

  21. I also like the fact the Sunbird has it’s own Add-On (Extension) functionality like Firefox and Thunderbird has and already has a number of add-ons for it. I’m not sure how add-ons for Lightning would work within Thunderbird exactly.

  22. Thanks fo all the work. If sunbird will be stopped, i have to change to another prog (maybe essential pim).
    Lightining is not a alternative to sunbird.
    The most important question is not whether sunbird or lightning will be stopped (in every case the project will lose users), but how to get new interesting people into the project and how to get more developers.
    This is the work of the project leader !
    I’m really disappointed about the way the calendar team will go now !

  23. I just discovered Sunbird 2 days ago, and once again feel like I missed the bus.
    Tech Stuff: PowerBook G4 running Mac OS X 10.4.11 I’ve been using Macs since 1990, and can handle the OS well, though I’m no programmer.
    I maintain a batch of Google calendars for my family, and was using an abandond stand alone web app, GCal, on my Macintosh. However, Google did something to their log in page, and GCal won’t log in anymore.
    I tried iCal, and I just don’t like the interface. Then I discovered Sunbird — and let out a mental cheer! Seamless integration with my g-calendars (with the add-in), a good interface, and easy to use.
    But it looks like I picked an orphan yet again. I don’t need e-mail integration, just a calendar app. There is no decent calendar app for the Macintosh at the moment, except Sunbird.
    I wish I had the skills to help on the project … I am a strong supporter of open software.

  24. Matt wrote:
    >Just to comment on your mention of Exchange support. I
    >don’t think this is nearly as important as supporting
    >things that allow people to ditch exchange all together.
    I agree with this. It’s far more important to make sure that Sunbird/Lightning work as well as possible with open-standards-based servers such as Zimbra, Communigate, Google Calendar, etc.

  25. I like to vote for pushing Sunbird instead of Lightning. Ok, it is very important to offer a simple way for Outlook users to change for Sunbird. But Lightning seems the wrong way for the following reasons:
    “Looking at the download numbers, Lightning is about twice as popular than Sunbird nowadays …” ok, but does it mean that people won’t download Sunbird if Lightning would not be available? They download Lightning because we offered it, so it looks like our recommendation for Outlook users – and there are many.
    What is easier for a unexperienced user: Dealing with Add-ons (“What is that at all? Can I trust to such a patchwork structure? Will it be supported in 5 years yet?”) or simply installing a stand alone program for a purpose which has not much to do with email administration?
    The statement that email and calendar can easily (and should) be managed by separated applications is sufficient convincing for anybody. Who is interested in an application which combines stitching images and TV recording, or cutting MP3 and developing presentations, or spreadsheed processing and web design, or … ? Successful promoting a separated Sunbird solution should be easy.
    An increasing number of people uses webmail. Shall we tell them to install Thunderbird if they are simply interested in a calendar application?
    We should not imitate MS structural mistakes. We should offer better solutions.
    Thunderbird and Sunbird/Lightning as well as Firefox are designed to be cross-platform applications and not simply Windows programs.
    What about integrating Lightning in the Thunderbird kernel? I hope there will never such a “ThunderSun”. Netscape was rightly splitted in Firefox and Thunderbird. We should not turn back to such kind of “egg producing wool milk pigs” (german proverb for a kind of all-in-one animal).
    Thunderbird internally changes from one versions to the next. Lightning than requires permanently manpower for adopting and perhaps can offered only with delay.
    I like to vote for clear structures designed for the future and not for some questionable short term advantage. What can be more clear than Thunderbird for email and Sunbird for calendar? A Lightning add-on always looks like a patchwork solution.
    Sunbird is exactly what I would need and I’m rather disappointed about this decision. I hope a little bit that it is not a real final one …