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.

#57 never got the point

by cmd9999

Wednesday November 7th, 2007 9:20 AM

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Thunderbird is at best a mediocre email client and moving to it when Qualcomm abandoned Eudora has been enormous work. My guess is that anyone who lives on email personally or professionally - and that's millions of people - has met with the same difficulties looking for an email client that would allow them the hope of escaping from Microsoft and Outlook. However, moving from Eudora to Thunderbird WAS NEVER THE FINAL OBJECTIVE. The final objective was to find an integrated information manager that would emulate and bring forward the kind of ideas that were embedded in the old ECCO. This would mean at least the seamless integration of a calendar, addressbook, email client, browser, and some kind of project timeline / notebook feature, in short an INFORMATION MANAGER. The problem with Mozilla from the beginning has been its lack of vision. Having somehow missed these announcements earlier and still not sure where Mozilla is going with all this - have no idea what a subsidiary means in this context - I'm still wondering and waiting to see if any product will emerge that really pulls all the pieces of an integrated information manager together on one platform. Probably not in my lifetime. So Microsoft wins again. If Mozilla thinks that Firefox is the name of the game they don't understand how at least a large contingent of computer users use computers. Sure, they browse. And the browser is a window on the web. Great. But so what. Sophisticated users also use digital tools to communicate and store the information that flows from that communication. Mozilla won't do it because their idea of a "community" is do their own thing and you follow or go someplace else, wherever that might be. But if they would go back and look at ECCO and figure out where they could go from there, they'd actually contribute to the development of the digital information systems available to users. Of course, they won't. That's the sad part of this whole, big mess.