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.

#36 Re: Re: Re: not quite, alex

by ronin65

Sunday July 29th, 2007 8:17 AM

You are replying to this message

Actually, I suspect that a close analysis of the tax exempt/non-tax exempt activities of the two bodies would find that there are activities being conducted by the taxable arm which could be conducted by the non-taxable arm which would therefore be a more efficient utilization of the funds.

in fact, I must question the whole concept of the taxable arm. It seems that there are probably few, if any, activities which could not be conducted by a tax-exempt non-profit organization.

As far as the merits, or lack thereof, of the decision taken to "drop" Thunderbird, it seems almost self evident that a browser and an email client are two sides of the same coin if one is talking about the internet. Either one without the other is incomplete and hence unlikely to attract the users that that both should and would. That is unless this action constitutes an admission by Mozilla Foundation and Corporation that they have so badly botched Thunderbird that it is to be considered, even by them, a failure and hence a write-off or throwaway. Essentially, this is a surrender the Microsoft Outlook Express. Certainly Penelope will not be what the majority of Thunderbird users revert to as Thunderbird is left to wither on the vine.

In my view, this action reflects a profound lack of vision on the part of the most senior leadership of the Mozilla Foundation and Corporation. Perhaps they are what needs to be changed.