Experimental addon offers new email addresses within Thunderbird

Mozilla Labs

A while ago we ran a survey, and found out that two thirds of the people who download Thunderbird expected us to give them an email address as part of Thunderbird. It makes sense, as all of the “new email” alternatives that consumers have (Gmail, Hotmail, GMX, etc…) package email addresses, storage & service with their interfaces. They’re quite surprised to find that we don’t. Of course, for enterprise users used to the notion of an “email client” like Outlook, Thunderbird’s model makes sense but for many people first trying Thunderbird, the first question we ask them — “What is your email address?” — is unexpected. We suspect that not only do new users expect us to give them an email address, but they like being able to try out new software with a blank slate. That way, it’s easier for them to decide whether they like the software without right away needing to a) trust the software with email addresses and passwords, and b) trust the software to not “mess up” their accounts.

A Prototype

A screenshot of the addon.
Here is our first attempt to fix that. In partnership with our friends at Tucows/Hover, we’ve built a new account creation feature, which allows new users to set up new email accounts easily. The addon replaces the default New Mail Account dialog (found by going to the File » New » Mail Account… menu entry) with a new dialog which allows people to purchase a new personalized email address. (Don’t worry, if you decide you don’t want to pay for an email address and prefer free ad-supported email services, we also have links to the most popular email providers, and we hope to integrate them further in the process at some point. And if you’ve
already got an email address, you can just click the “Skip this” button at the bottom, and be taken to a slightly-prettier version of the previous New Mail Account dialog.

The purpose of this prototype is to gather as much feedback as possible, to help us decide whether this feature would work well in Thunderbird. Of course, being aimed at people who don’t currently use Thunderbird, we’ll have to seek out more representative users, but we still would like input from readers of this blog.

A note about money: running high quality email services cost money, which comes either from paid services or from ads. We hope to be able to offer a variety of email providers as part of Thunderbird, making it easier for users to choose what model works best for them.

We’ve also thought about offering Thunderbird-branded email accounts, and may consider that in a future release of this addon.

What’s Next?

With your help, we’re hoping to get this add-on built directly into future versions of Thunderbird so please try it out and leave your feedback. For installation, more information and a screen cast explaining the add-on, check out the Get An Account project page.