Software

Mozilla does the unthinkable

Mozilla made the jaw dropping announcement they are (sort of) halting the development of the single most important open source email client, Thunderbird. Jack Wallen offers his take on this odd news.

I'm sure you've already heard the news that Mozilla has decided to "pull the plug" on Thunderbird. In essence, Mozilla is pulling its resources away from Thunderbird development in the hopes that the fans, er, open source community, will take over the development.

First of all — of course they will. The open source community has done this constantly. A good project is dropped (or the developers take the project down a road the project shouldn't go down) and a group of developers fork the project so the application can continue to live. That will most likely happen here. And maybe Thunderbird will turn into something even greater.

But the big question is "why"? Most speculation surrounds a ubiquitous project named Kilimanjaro. This foundation of this project is "The web is the platform". What does this say? To me it says that Mozilla has something behind some Oz-ian curtain akin to Google Apps.

Hello Wheel, let me re-invent you.

Sort of.

If, in fact, Mozilla plans on attempting to roll out a Google Apps-like platform, they are going to have a bit of a rough go at it. Why? Because Mozilla simply doesn't have the resources that Google has; and to create such a platform, it requires resources on a serious level. Besides, to assume everyone wants to go to the way of the cloud is a mistake. Yes, I use Google Apps, but not not as my primary email account. For that I use Thunderbird. Should Thunderbird go the way of the Dodo, I'll migrate back to Claws Mail. One way or another, I'll have a client-based email. And should Mozilla roll out a web-based platform, will I migrate from Google Apps? Unless this platform is undeniably superior (which it could be) I doubt it.

The truth of the matter is, Thunderbird is one of the finest client-based email apps available, and to just drop further development is a huge mistake...it's unthinkable!

One of the strangest quotes (one that I simply cannot wrap my brain around) is Thunderbird Managing Director JB Piacentino saying:

"However, Thunderbird is one of the very few truly free and open-source multi-platform e-mail 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."

So they understand that Thunderbird is one of the very few truly free and open source multi-platform e-mail applications, and they want to maintain security and stability... yet they are pulling resources from the project.

Say huh?

How is this going to ensure on-going stability and security? You pull resources and you inject shortcomings... and help to halt the on-going development, stability, and security.

As it stands, none of this makes sense. I've already seen a rash of emails both to myself and to various email lists to which I belong, asking either "Why?" or "What app should I switch to?" As to the Why?, no one seems to have an answer. As to the What app?, the nearly-unanimous answer is, as I mentioned earlier, Claws Mail. You can bet I'll be switching back to Claws Mail should the time come that Thunderbird begins to fall behind. As of now, the client is still good to go, but who knows what the future holds.

Fortunately, this is open source and that means, one way or another, Thunderbird will continue on. It's just a shame that Mozilla seems to think it's not the best use of their resources. But then... I'm not knee-deep in the muck and mire of everyday Mozilla corporate life — so maybe, just maybe, this decision is the best for the organization. Even so, Thunderbird is an incredibly important open source project and, in no way, deserves to fade away.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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