So, That’s It For Thunderbird

Mozilla is not “stopping” Thunderbird development, it has just decided that: “continued innovation on Thunderbird is not the best use of our resources given our ambitious organizational goals.” And it’s pulling people off the project. But it’s not stopping? Right.

This, according to a letter shared with “Mozillians” ahead of the official announcement to be revealed on Monday. Recipients were asked not to share the letter, blog or tweet about the news until then, but obviously someone out there didn’t agree with that plan.

While it’s sure to upset some diehards, it’s a move that makes sense, given that Thunderbird, an open source Outlook competitor, is desktop software in a world that has been rapidly moving to mobile and web. Mozilla itself has been ramping up efforts in these areas as of late, with the recent introductions of its “boot-to-gecko” OS (now “Firefox OS”), for example, as well as a new web-based code editor called Thimble“Junior,” a Webkit-based browser for iPad, its Firefox mobile web browser, of course, and more.

The timing of the Thunderbird announcement is kind of funny, though, since it was barely a month ago that Mozilla was touting the release of a new version of the software which introduced options for large file sharing and the ability to create personalized email addresses. Now, it seems that the company’s focus will be mainly on security and stability, not new features.

On Monday, the company will post details of Thunderbird’s proposed governance model here, to complement the forthcoming blog post from Mozilla Foundation Chair Mitchell Baker.

Although the letter makes it sound like the reassignments from Thunderbird to other projects would be new changes, people started moving off of Thunderbird in January. And as for any hopes that the “community” of Thunderbird contributors will rise up to fill in the gaps once those folks are gone…well, don’t hold your breath on that one.

The full text of the letter is below. (We’ve confirmed it’s legit.)

Hello Mozillians:

On Monday Mitchell Baker will be posting on the future of Thunderbird.

We’d like you to be aware of it before it goes public. However, this is *confidential* until the post is pushed live Monday afternoon PDT. Please don’t tweet, blog or discuss on public mailing lists before then.

In summary, we’ve been focusing efforts towards important web and mobile projects, such as B2G, while Thunderbird remains a pure desktop-only email client. We have come to the conclusion that continued innovation on Thunderbird is not the best use of our resources given our ambitious organizational goals. The most critical needs for the product are on-going security and stability for our 20+ million users.

However, Thunderbird is one of the very few truly free and open source multi-platform email applications available today and we want to defend these values. We’re not “stopping” Thunderbird, but proposing we adapt the Thunderbird release and governance model in a way that allows both ongoing security and stability maintenance, as well as community-driven innovation and development for the product. This will mean an eventual shift in how we staff Thunderbird at Mozilla Corporation – we are still working out details, but some people will likely end up on other Mozilla projects.

We are going to open this plan for public discussion to individuals and organizations interested in maintaining and advancing Thunderbird in the future on Monday. We are looking for your feedback, comments and suggestions to refine and adapt the plan in the best possible way throughout the summer so we can share a final plan of action in early September 2012.

If you have any questions prior to Monday please reach out to me [] or Mitchell []. Again, this information is for Mozillians-only until Mitchell’s post goes live.


Jb Piacentino
Thunderbird Managing Director

Additional information:

New release and governance model for Thunderbird will be available here concurrently to Mitchell’s post:

Info on Modules and Thunderbird owners:

You’re receiving this email because you’re a registered Mozillian. We’ll send you timely and occasional organizational news and updates – meant just for Mozillians. If you do not wish to receive these updates, please unsubscribe here. Read the Mozilla Privacy Policy.

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Update: Oh look, a blog post just went up.