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.

#52 Re: We don't understand

by schooner

Monday August 6th, 2007 6:30 PM

You are replying to this message

I really doubt Google would be involved in this decision. I could be mistaken, but I am pretty sure regardless of whether you use TB with GMail or Firefox with the web interface, Google still gets their marketing data. They also wouldn't seek to damage the only competition for Vista Mail on Windows. The unknown that concerns me is how many devs will be forced to choose between Firefox and Thunderbird when they contribute code to both. The further the two split, the less likely it will be to find themes that match. I haven't used Seamonkey before, but do all the plugins work between SM and TB? It just seems crazy to dump Thunderbird off to the community when someone's finally got Google calendar working for read and write. I'm not a big fan of webmail or this notion that everything's going to be browser based anyway. The providers then have complete control of the code and the features. I highly doubt we will see as extensible a mail environment if everything goes to webmail. Thunderbird finally has the features necessary to beat up Outlook and it's come to a choice between Firefox or Thunderbird for some reason. It just doesn't make any sense to me. That's why I would welcome a full commitment one way or the other: either let it go completely and find a company willing to fight their way through or press on knowing that the end of the tunnel is closer than they think it is.