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Separating Mail from Browser - Again

There has been some rumbling today about the future of Thunderbird, starting with Mitchell's call to action. Thunderbird has been a step-child of the Mozilla Corporation for quite some time while it spearheaded the rediscovery of the open web by spreading Firefox. This is an important job, but a company of perhaps 150 people or so working on Firefox and two working on Thunderbird just doesn't work out. I guess that time has come when MoCo has to split off the step-child mail client and become the Firefox Corporation that it has been acting as for a while now. In some way, mail client and browser get separated once again, some years after doing that on the technical application level.

This is a possibility for Thunderbird to step out of the shadow of its overwhelming browser brother if it's done right. Almost everyone, including Scott as the head of Thunderbird development, is thinking the best option is to form Thunderbird into a community project like SeaMonkey, and Sunbird (or even Camino-like-Firefox).
I also think that a Thunderbird community project is a good solution for stepping out of Firefox' shadow, but I hope the organizational overhead can be kept as low as possible. We don't have any official organization for SeaMonkey, being backed "only" by the Mozilla Foundation, and that structure works well (the SeaMonkey development community might be bigger than Thunderbird's at the moment, despite probably the opposite is true for user numbers). Of course, Scott and David should still be paid for Thunderbird development, so there has to be some form of organization. Maybe we should even think about an organization that backs multiple Mozilla-based projects, or this can even be done via the Foundation itself? Let's see how this turns out.

In any case, the SeaMonkey project will happily team up with the Thunderbird project where useful, it's in the interest of both our projects to have a healthy and well-developed email and newsgroup backend, so we both can deliver top-quality software to our respective target audiences.
I wish the Thunderbird good luck on this interesting journey and hope that we can continue working well together for a good future of Mozilla-based Mail and News clients.

Entry written by KaiRo and posted on July 26th, 2007 21:22 | Tags: Mozilla, SeaMonkey, Thunderbird | 1 comment


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  • Comments


    Asa Dotzler

    your numbers aren't quite right
    You said "a company of perhaps 150 people or so working on Firefox and two working on Thunderbird just doesn't work out."

    The company is actually closer to 110 people. About 10 or 11 of those people are full-time engineers working on Firefox and 2 of those people are full-time engineers working on Thunderbird. The rest of the engineering team are platform engineers, build and release, qa, security, webdev, and IT -- all shared across all of the projects and products that Mozilla supports.

    Now, certainly many of the platform team are focused on Gecko features which are more important to Firefox than to Thunderbird, but Thunderbird depends on that platform too and will continue to for the foreseeable future.

    I just wanted to point out that to people who read your post, there are not 148 people working on Firefox and 2 people working on Thunderbird. Not even close.

    - A
    2007-07-29 07:46

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