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.

#30 Re: Re: not quite, alex

by asa <>

Friday July 27th, 2007 11:18 PM

You are replying to this message

"Frankly, I've found the increasing tendency to refer to the Foundation and/or Corporation with the ambiguous noun "Mozilla" less than helpful in figuring out who runs what."

I actually think that using the noun "Mozilla" is the best way to go, unless you want to refer to the specific activities of a particular group or person. There are about 115 people paid by Mozilla. Right now, 4 of them work for the Foundation (it was 3 until about a month ago.) Many of the things that the 4 Foundation employees do are very important to Firefox, and many of the things that the 111 Corporation employees do are very important to SeaMonkey, Camino, Bugzila, etc. You can take a look at the weekly status reports to see who is working on what <>

I see the distinction as really between "Mozilla Products" and "Mozilla Projects" (sometimes called "community projects"), not this "Corporation" or "Foundation" thing. Mozilla Products are Mozilla-hosted applications that are productized by Mozilla. Mozilla Projects are Mozilla-hosted applications that are productized by volunteers or other organizations or not productized at all.

"Maybe it only matters in terms of obscure tax regulations but I always got the impression that the division was supposed to be more than that."

Today, it mostly only matters in terms of obscure tax regulations.

This may change some. I personally hope it does. We're searching for an Executive Director for the Mozilla Foundation and that person will continue to define the role of the Foundation and the set of activities it will engage in to realize the Mozilla vision. Until we're much further along in that process, we're pretty much just "Mozilla", a growing group of people working on making Mozilla products and projects as successful as we can.

- A