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Mozilla Thunderbird to Find New Home as Mozilla Foundation Focuses on Mozilla Firefox

Thursday July 26th, 2007

On her weblog, Mozilla Corporation CEO Mitchell Baker has announced that Mozilla Thunderbird is to move to a "new, separate organizational setting" as the Mozilla Foundation continues to focus ever more closely on Mozilla Firefox.

While the Mozilla Foundation supports a number of projects, its taxable subsidiary the Mozilla Corporation is responsible for only Firefox and Thunderbird. However, it has become increasingly clear that Firefox is the priority. The resources allocated to Firefox dwarf those allocated to Thunderbird and recent projects such as the initiative to improve Mozilla support exclude Thunderbird.

Mitchell outlines three possible options for a new organisational structure for Thunderbird. One is to create a entirely new non-profit, which would offer maximum independence for Thunderbird but is organisationally complex. A second option is to create a new subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation for Thunderbird, which would keep the Mozilla Foundation involved but may mean that Thunderbird continues to be neglected in favour of Firefox. A final option is to recast Thunderbird as community project, similar to SeaMonkey, and set up a small independent services and consulting company to continue development. However, there are concerns over how the Thunderbird product, project and company would interact.

On his new weblog, lead Thunderbird developer Scott MacGregor has posted his thoughts on the finding a new home for Thunderbird. He states that he favours the third option. Scott explains that this means that Thunderbird would continue to use Mozilla Foundation infrastructure, such as the CVS repository and Bugzilla, and the new company would perform a similar role for Thunderbird as the Mozilla Corporation does for Firefox, developing, releasing and supporting the application.

Observers of the Mozilla community may have seen Thunderbird's new home coming. In April, former Firefox lead developer Ben Goodger wrote a weblog post discussing autonomy for non-Firefox projects. He suggested renaming the Mozilla Corporation to the Firefox Corporation and pointed to a newsgroup message in which Mozilla Corporation CTO Brendan Eich declared "Thunderbird will have to fly free". Ten days later, Mitchell Baker wrote a weblog post on the Mozilla Foundation's focus on Firefox, stating that the Foundation's resources would be used to "assist other Mozilla participants and projects, but not equally with Firefox and not at significant cost to Firefox".

Update: In the text above, the sentence "While the Mozilla Foundation supports a number of projects, its taxable subsidiary the Mozilla Corporation is responsible for only Firefox and Thunderbird" was potentially misleading. The Corporation provides significant support to projects other than Firefox and Thunderbird in terms of hardware, services and personnel.

It would be more accurate to say that Firefox and Thunderbird are Mozilla products, which means that they get released, distributed and supported as end-user applications by the Corporation. Other applications, such as SeaMonkey and Camino, are Mozilla projects, which are made into products by volunteers or other organisations, if at all.

Thanks to Asa Dotzler for the clarification in comment 26 and comment 30 on this article.


#42 A sad day (or not) for Thunderbird?

by pkb351 <pbergsagel@shaw.ca>

Tuesday July 31st, 2007 8:50 AM

You are replying to this message

The exact same scenario was voiced by supporters of the Mozilla suite as it was being dropped by Mozilla and before it found new life as the SeaMonkey project. If anyone remembers the final years of development of the Mozilla suite (before it became SeaMonkey) knew that Mozilla had no interest in an all in one suite and this showed in the progress of the development of the suite. I for one am glad that Mozilla was honest enough to state that it had little interest in the suite and would not dedicate resources to its development. Once a few developers at Mozilla decided that "stand alone apps" was all the wanted to develop, it didn't matter what anyone else (paid or volunteer) at Mozilla felt or thought. Did a few developers actually believe in supporting stand alone apps (Firefox/Thunderbird/NVU) as a replacement for the Mozilla Suite(SeaMonkey) or did they see moving to stand alone apps as a way to devote the majority of the resources to the browser by making the opponents of the decision to drop the suite believe the suite was gaining new life as "stand alone apps"? Where we duped? Was this a plan to make us believe Mozilla was interested in developing "stand alone apps" to replace the suite just a ploy to squelch any any major unrest if Mozilla had simply dropped all "stand alone apps" several years ago in favour of only developing the browser?

I am not all negative over the decisions made over the decision to move the Mozilla Suite from Mozilla to a community project. Some paid Mozilla developers were only interested in the browser. The issue of "bloat" for dropping the suite was a ruse since FireFox, it can be argued, is just as bloated as the old Mozilla suite ever was. Whatever one can state about the politics involved in the dropping of the suite, with little of it positive, there is one major positive to come out of the period of Mozilla history. The Mozilla suite had to be set free from a group of developers interested in only developing a browser. SeaMonkey lives because it was set free.

Mozilla did not want to develop an internet suite and did not feel an internet suite was the best way forward if Mozilla was to gain user share. Fortunately Mozilla understood that that if there were users and developers who believed that an internet suite was a good way forward for the internet, Mozilla would provide still allow a close relationship between the suite and FireFox. They would support the suite development by allowing the suite to participate in the development of Gecko, use Bugzilla, and build versions of SeaMonkey at Mozilla, and host Seamonkey discussions at Mozillazine.

Thus SeaMonkey was born. IT went from being an unwanted project to a beloved project of the SeaMonkey Community. SeaMonkey has come a long way since it was the Mozilla Suite. I love the Suite and all the improvements the developers have put into SeaMonkey. SeaMonkey's development would still be stalled if it was not set free to be a project of Mozilla. SeaMonkey needed a group of developers who believed in the project for the suite to continue to improve. SeaMonkey also required a close connection with Mozilla or the suite would not have improved to be the high quality internet suite it is today.

The users who want ThunderBird to continue would be advised to follow the path taken by SeaMonkey. Just don't change its name. There are still users who are using old versions of the Mozilla Suite because they have not realized that the suite is being actively developed as is now called SeaMonkey. (If only the name Mozilla Suite could have been used, but thats another story.) Even though I never agreed with the process taken by Mozilla to unfairly pull the plug on the suite, setting the browser free has been what has saved it and improved its quality. Anyone who wants a very good browser/mail/newsgroup/etc. should look to SeaMonkey.

I hope, the decision to drop Thunderbird, Google (as a donor to the foundation/paying developers). Gmail, or the recent decision by Edora to base its software on Thunderbird.

Here is a quote from Wikipedia:

"On October 11, 2006, Qualcomm announced [1] that future versions of Eudora would be based on the same technology platform as Mozilla Thunderbird and be open source. The current codename for this project is "Penelope" [2]. Penelope is developed by the Mozilla Foundation, and the project is being led by the former Qualcomm team, including original developer Steve Dorner.

Penelope is currently available as an extension to Mozilla Thunderbird. The Paid mode commercial versions of Eudora are no longer available as of May 1st, 2007. The Sponsored mode versions of Eudora continue to be available for download.

The Qualcomm Penelope developers announced on 07-19-2007: "We currently have, in house, our first actual Beta build (called Eudora 8.0.0b1). We'll probably get this posted in the next few weeks." This open-source, Thunderbird-based version has been under development since 2006, but will not be a true replacement for the current Eudora (ie., one that has similar features/capabilities) until 2008 at the earliest. [2]" <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eudora>

Now just as Thunderbird has managed to gain more developers with the Penelope development how does Thuinderbird lack developer resources? Is Google putting pressure on Mozilla to drop Thunderbird as they now feel a real threat to Google's email projects from the possibility that the Eudora/Penelope project producing a very good email client?