Mozilla Sets New Priorities, Thunderbird Development Apparently Not Among Them
Over the years, alongside its very popular Firefox browser, Mozilla has steadily developed its Thunderbird email platform, reaching more than 20 million users with it. At the same time, Mozilla has never found a good way to make Thunderbird development financially sustainable. Now, in a move that may surprise a lot of users, there are strong signs that Mozilla is pulling back on develpment of the project. TechCrunch has reported on an apparently leaked email to that effect, and Mitchell Baker, Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, has a blog post up about the topic.
According to Baker, Thunderbird may be at a level where it meets many users' needs:
"Once again we’ve been asking the question: is Thunderbird a likely source of innovation and of leadership in today’s Internet life? Or is Thunderbird already pretty much what its users want and mostly needs some on-going maintenance? 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."
If that isn't the sound of developers mounting their horses and riding off for the sunset, I don't know what is. The fact is, Thunderbird still lags other email systems in several ways. It can be slow, and isn't favored as a corporate messaging system. Without ongoing development, it may remain useful to some, but won't be a strong competitor to leading email and messaging systems.
There are a lot of Mozilla fans who will still applaud Mozilla's move, though. Firefox, after all, is locked in a neck-and-neck battle for market share and new innovation with Google's Chrome browser. A lot will come of one of these browsers significantly outdoing the other one.
Lots of users will vote for Mozilla to concentrate money and development resources on Firefox, at the expense of Thunderbird. According to Baker:
"Mozilla will provide security updates through an Extended Support Release process. We will also maintain mechanisms for the Thunderbird community to organize for ongoing development. Here are additional details about this plan."