Thunderbird Active Daily Inquiries Surpass 10 Million!

We are pleased to report that Thunderbird usage, as reported though the standard Mozilla metric of Active Daily Inquiries (ADI), has surpassed 10 million users per day on Monday November 30 2015 for the first time ever.

Thunderbird Active Daily Inquiries graph, showing new record of 10,000,000

ADI is a raw measurement of active users, and is taken by counting the daily requests from Thunderbird users for updates to the plugin blocklist. This measure under-counts active users for a variety of reasons (such as firewalls, or users that do not use Thunderbird everyday). Based on more detailed studies with other applications, a typical multiplier applied to ADI to estimate total active users is 2.5. So the best estimate of current active users is 25,000,000.

Thunderbird Celebrates its 11 Birthday

Eleven years ago, on December 7 2004, Mozilla announced in a blog post the birth of Thunderbird. Happy Birthday, Thunderbird!

String-freeze for Thunderbird 45 on December 14

The Thunderbird development team is working hard on the next major release of Thunderbird, version 45, which is due for release in March of 2016. String freeze for new features is this weekend. Over 1000 code commits have been done to the main Thunderbird code repository in preparation for this release (in addition to the tens of thousands of commits to the Mozilla platform repository that Thunderbird uses as its base).

Mozilla Foundation as (Temporary) Thunderbird Home

Coincidentally on the same date as the new ADI record, in a post to a public Mozilla discussion forum, Mozilla Chairperson Mitchell Baker outlined some upcoming changes in the relationship of Mozilla to Thunderbird.

In the administrative part of that post, Mitchell announced that the Mozilla Foundation under Mark Surman has been working with Thunderbird to provide at least a temporary legal and financial home for the Thunderbird project (which we have been sorely lacking for several years). At the same time, a formal process will be undertaken to determine what is the best long-term home for Thunderbird, which might be Mozilla or might be some other entity.

Practically what this means is that in 2016, Thunderbird will finally be able to accept donations from users directed toward the update and maintenance of Thunderbird. In the long run, Thunderbird needs to rely on our users for support, and not expect to be subsidized by revenue from Firefox. We welcome this help from the Mozilla Foundation in moving toward our goal of developing independent sources of income for Thunderbird.

In the technical part of that post, Mitchell reiterated that Mozilla needs to be laser-focused on Firefox, and that the burden this places on Thunderbird (as well as the burden that Thunderbird places on Firefox) is leading to unacceptable outcomes for both projects. The most immediate need is for the Thunderbird release infrastructure to be independent of that used by Firefox, and Mozilla has offered to help. In the long-term, there will be additional technical separation between Firefox and Thunderbird as a continuation of a process that has been ongoing for the last three years.


15 responses

  1. A wrote on :

    So, a product has 10 million users…and gets discontinued? OTOH, it may be a good thing to not be developed by Mozilla any more, that way no more bloat (chat? automagic configuration?) gets added to a perfectly fine MUA.

    1. kent wrote on :

      Did you even read the blog post? There are no plans to discontinue Thunderbird.

  2. Juergen wrote on :

    I recently learned that thunderbird does not handle punycode-domains correctly (it just does no conversion of country-specific names at all). What will the divorce from mozilla mean for such elementary issues that need to be done if thunderbird shall exist further? Is there a development/support stop right now?

    Juergen from germany, who tried to send an email to info@pä without success…

    1. kent wrote on :

      Did you even read the blog post? 1) There is no immediate “divorce from Mozilla”, 2) Development continues actively.

      But in response to your request, people code where they itch. There is no central team evaluating requests such as yours, only individuals who choose what to work on. Patches are welcome.

  3. Paul Fernhout wrote on :

    To deal with Thunderbird’s technical debt (which Andrew Sutherland described on the Mozilla Governance thread that Mitchell Baker started), I propose Mozilla fund a “skunkworks” team of about seven people for a year to create a new server version of Thunderbird (called “Thunderbird Server”) that runs initially as a locally-installed Node.js app providing a single-page JavaScript/TypeScript webapp for email handling and other peer-to-peer communications using the local file system. Thunderbird Server would use Firefox (desktop or mobile) as its primary client; Firefox would access Thunderbird Server just like any other (local) web server using web standards. The most significant Thunderbird Desktop plugins (based on downloads or other metrics) would be ported by the team to this new Thunderbird Server platform (ideally, aided by a custom tool for such porting). Some of the most popular plugins might be unneeded though for Thunderbird Server given they could run directly in Firefox (like translation tools and ad blockers). This Thunderbird Server platform would, through plugins, eventually become a social semantic desktop that could change the nature of the web as we know it as it, reducing the significance of the distinction between local copies shared with peers and centralized content shared with clients.

    I’d be happy to either help lead such a Thunderbird Server project myself or just help out with it full-time under another developer’s leadership. I just applied as a “Mozilla Growth Engineer” suggesting something in this direction. At the following link is a manifesto I wrote yesterday about this idea with more details on such a plan and a lot more reasons as to why Mozilla should fund this effort. But in short, the big issue here is not messaging (as Andrew points out Mozilla supports in other ways). The deeper issues is local data and peer-to-peer communications versus central data and client-to-shared-server communications — and related privacy, security, and reliability concerns. Mark Surman said the Mozilla Foundation offered a modest amount of money to pay for contractors to help develop options for the technical future of Thunderbird. In a couple of months, building on the FOSS system I’ve already written called NarraFirma, I’m confident could produce a proof of concept of this Thunderbird Server idea even just working by myself. But it would be better to do it as part of a team.

    The “ThunderbirdS Are Grow!” Manifesto:

    1. kent wrote on :

      This blog is not really the appropriate place to describe and promote this very specific proposal. I suggest that you post this to the tb-planning email list where ideas like this are discussed.

      1. Paul Fernhout wrote on :

        Thanks Kent; I’ve signed up for the tb-planning email list and will post something about it there as you suggest.

    2. Carlos Silva wrote on :

      You lost me at “Node.js”.

      I love Thunderbird as a truly native, standalone application. Not saying you shouldn’t pursuit your idea, just don’t try to transofrm Thunderbird on it.

      1. kent wrote on :

        Node.js was not mentioned in the blog post, but by one of the commenters. But let me just say that node.js is as much a truly native environment as the current Gecko platform, just one based on Google V8 rather than the Mozilla javascript parser. I think it unlikely that Thunderbird would attempt to migrate to V8, but at least node.js is committed to being a platform usable by others, while Mozilla Gecko is not.

  4. Lynn wrote on :

    Is there any way to get these blog posts pushed to my email? Thanks!

    1. kent wrote on :

      There is no direct version of this blog in email, but there is an RSS feed which you could add to Thunderbird or other RSS reader:

  5. Axel Lussow wrote on :

    Dear tb devs, heads up for keeping this great email client alive for all of us who refuse to switch to social network chatter or corporate outlook lunacy!

    And I have to pay my respects to you for not being pressured into following ff into the dumbed down chrome path. Mozilla is either bought by Google or is too ignorant to see that their new policy will abandon their old user base w/o gaining a new one. Though there are some good reasons for tech changes like Electrolysis and Servo, it’s the way mandatory “Mozilla Store” signing and abandoning XUL and JetPack is argued that is so jaw dropping.

    Everyone who wants to know why a split is inevitable just read the comments in

    1. kent wrote on :

      Criticism or praise of Firefox is out of scope for this blog. The specific issues that most affect Thunderbird are whether we can continue to maintain the viability of existing XUL-based addons. Although this is still an issue under discussion, I’ve tried to give a tentative schedule, with my best read of what is going on in the Firefox world, that says we would support XUL-based addons through at least third quarter 2018. Much further than that is hard to predict, but no decisions have been made.

      1. Axel Lussow wrote on :

        I applaud your civilized stance toward Mozilla and if you say Firefox doesn’t have to do anything with Thunderbird (or this blog) then it is what it is. Though I admit it could be tricky discussing the future of the XUL addons w/o mentioning Firefox, so good luck with that 🙂

  6. bittin wrote on :

    This sounds great my grand parents and other family member is still using TB 🙂