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.

#48 Advantages of e-mail over Web mail

by ajpaterson

Wednesday August 1st, 2007 3:27 AM

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One big advantage of e-mail over Web mail is that I can check out potentially harmful e-mail offline. After downloading the e-mail into Thunderbird, I put on ZoneAlarm's Internet lock to prevent access to the 'Net. Then I switch off HTML in TB and try to view the message. If there isn't any non-HTML text, that is immediately suspicious but then I will switch HTML back on and see what is visible. If there is no text, just an image (which TB does not display by default - good!) and/or an attachment, I know that it must be spam and possibly malicious so I simply delete it. (Anyone who knows me would at least put a message to say what it was.) If I really want to be safe, TB stores mail in mbox (text-based) format so I can just open up the appropriate mailbox file in a text editor and view the raw e-mail...

There is so much that can be done from HTML, especially using Javascript, that Web mail is getting more and more dangerous. I know that some Web mail now does not display images by default and that there are other things that can be done to make Web mail safer but you cannot check out Web mail offline! It is so much easier using TB, especially if you use extensions like the Sender Verification utility.

(Actually, I use a combination of e-mail and Web mail. I use my ISP's Web mail utility to view the inbox and delete any that are obviously spam from the sender and/or the subject line. Note that I do not view the actual messages from Web mail, only the inbox. Then I download the rest into Thunderbird and check out any suspicious ones as just described.)

Some more points: * With TB, I can check out old messages and write replies without having to connect to the Internet. (This can be useful sometimes!)

* Web mail is rarely guaranteed and, if it is down for some reason, you cannot do anything. For example, I was recently re-installing some software and I needed the registration code that had been e-mailed to me. Unfortunately, the Web mail account where it was held was down for several days and so I had to wait until it returned to install the software. Needless to say, as soon as the Web mail was back online, I immediately forwarded all archived e-mail from that account to a POP mailbox and downloaded it into TB.

* You can back up TB e-mail but you cannot back up Web mail (other than by forwarding it to another account). Again, I had a bad experience when a Web mail server crashed and I (and many others) lost a lot of recent e-mail because it had not been backed up by the provider before the crash.

* If you exceed your allocation on Web mail, the provider will block any further incoming mail. This is not a problem with e-mail provided that you delete the mail from the server after download.