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Mozilla ceases Thunderbird feature development

Mozilla ceases Thunderbird feature development

Thunderbird is being let loose, with the Mozilla Foundation supplying only security and stability fixes and leaving feature development up to the community.

The Mozilla Foundation, the not-for-profit company behind the popular open-source Firefox web browser, has announced that it is pulling resources away from its Thunderbird standalone email package and leaving its future in the hands of the community.

Developed alongside Firefox when Mozilla took over the Netscape Communicator code base - which was, in turn, a suite of tools including the Netscape Navigator browser that would become Firefox and the Netscape Messenger email system client that would become Thunderbird - Thunderbird's popularity has been waning in recent years as increasing numbers of internet users switch to web-based emails systems like Google's Gmail and Microsoft's Hotmail, or even giving up on email altogether in favour of communicating via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

It's been clear that Mozilla has been favouring Firefox over Thunderbird for quite some time, with Thunderbird's feature set stagnating while Firefox's version numbers fly ever skyward in competition with Google's Chrome browser. On Friday, however, the Foundation made it official: Thunderbird is being all-but abandoned in favour of work on the far sexier Firefox project, and spin-off efforts including the Firefox Mobile operating system previously known as Boot To Gecko (B2G.)

'Much of Mozilla's leadership — including that of the Thunderbird team — has come to the conclusion that on-going stability is the most important thing, and that continued innovation in Thunderbird is not a priority for Mozilla's product efforts,' Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation, explained in a blog post on Friday. 'As a result, the Thunderbird team has developed a plan that provides both stability for Thunderbird’s current state and allows the Thunderbird community to innovate if it chooses.'

That plan, Baker explained, means that Mozilla will continue to provide security updates through what it calls an Extended Support Release (ESR) process. This will make the Thunderbird ESR release, previously created for use by universities, business and other organisations which need stability and extended support for mass deployments, feature-complete with regards the standard release - after which its feature set will not change, although a six-weekly release will bring security fixes.

The standard release, meanwhile, will diverge from the Thunderbird ESR: while it, too, will get six-weekly security and stability patches, its feature set will be flexible - but any new features added to the software will come entirely from the community, and not from the Foundation itself.

'Most Thunderbird users seem happy with the basic email feature set. In parallel, we have seen the rising popularity of Web-based forms of communications representing email alternatives to a desktop solution,' Baker claimed. 'Given this, focusing on stability for Thunderbird and driving innovation through other offerings seems a natural choice.'

12 Comments

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will_123 9th July 2012, 10:31 Quote
This is quite disappointing. I use this as my main email client on Linux whichever distro I use. I really like it for the support it has with PGP. Will probably continue to use it see what the community do with it.
b1candy 9th July 2012, 10:49 Quote
I have several GMail accounts and a couple of work email accounts. I use TB as my source to collect them all and also send from them if needed.

First we get word that iGoogle is being shut down, and now TB isn't being officially supported. All my productivity is going down the plughole.
azrael- 9th July 2012, 11:35 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by b1candy
I have several GMail accounts and a couple of work email accounts. I use TB as my source to collect them all and also send from them if needed.

First we get word that iGoogle is being shut down, and now TB isn't being officially supported. All my productivity is going down the plughole.
But Facebook isn't going anywhere. That has to count as a plus... ;)
Phalanx 9th July 2012, 11:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by b1candy
...and now TB isn't being officially supported.

Don't know where you read that. They just said it's not being feature developed. Support will still be there in terms of fixes/patches. And once they relaunch into it, it will get the update it needs.
Pliqu3011 9th July 2012, 12:34 Quote
What a shame.
l3v1ck 9th July 2012, 12:57 Quote
If they're still doing security updates I see no reason to stop using it.
Evolutionsic 9th July 2012, 13:31 Quote
Does tb support .me ?
wuyanxu 9th July 2012, 14:11 Quote
it's the only non-OS specific good mail client, it's a shame to see its feature update being dropped.

however, it can also be seen as a good thing. TB is pretty much perfect, any more features will become bloat.



iGoogle, now it's really sad to see that go, what was Google thinking!
Kacela 9th July 2012, 14:51 Quote
It would indeed a shame if TB went away. Many of the thousands of people still using XP and Microsoft's Outlook Express would not really have a viable alternative to Outlook Express, when they are forced to upgrade to Windows 7 or beyond. OE is not supported by Windows 7, but TB can be configured to behave very much the same way as OE. Hopefully, the "community" will take the TB code and really run with it...
monkiboi 9th July 2012, 15:50 Quote
Initially I thought they were dropping it completely but as long as security fixes are released then it's fine by me. Functionality can always be added via extensions unless I'm still missing something.
fluxtatic 10th July 2012, 05:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kacela
It would indeed a shame if TB went away. Many of the thousands of people still using XP and Microsoft's Outlook Express would not really have a viable alternative to Outlook Express, when they are forced to upgrade to Windows 7 or beyond. OE is not supported by Windows 7, but TB can be configured to behave very much the same way as OE. Hopefully, the "community" will take the TB code and really run with it...

Bleh - OE can eat a dick.

That said, so nice to see Mozilla concentrating on what's important - a stupid, pointless mobile OS that might get some traction in Brazil. Way to go, guys!
Bogomip 10th July 2012, 07:58 Quote
This is a shame, I still use thunderbird at home. Its probably not quite as good as Outlook, but its way better than outlook express - and still good overall.

Mozilla have lost it a bit though now :(
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