Software

Mozilla splits off Thunderbird


It might be old news, but it's big news. First the Mozilla Foundation announced that it was splitting off the Thunderbird mail client from the foundation. The only reason they gave was to concentrate on the browser market more fully. Immediately, I suspected it had something to do with mobile computing. And I was right. Shortly after the announcement the Mozilla Foundation came out with the news that they were going to develop a mobile version of FireFox that would include extensions.

Okay - that IS good news. Up until now the mobile Web experience (if you're not using an iPhone) has been shoddy at best. I've tried many of the available browsers for Palm and all of them have some serious issues. So, yeah, I can handle Mozilla concentrating Tier-1 efforts on a mobile browser.

But what about Thunderbird? Thunderbird has been my mail client of choice for a long time now. It's really come a long way over the years. What about it? Well, I'm sure it'll be fine. And that, my friends, is one of the benefits of open source software. A foundation drops one of its pieces and any of the brighter stars in the open source community can pick it up and keep it going (and, gasp, even improve it!)

Imagine, if you will, that Thunderbird and the Mozilla Foundation were proprietary. Mozilla decides that it is over-reaching by focusing on both a browser and a mail client. So they decide to drop the mail client to concentrate their efforts. But what happens to the mail client? Most likely it is labeled EOL (end of life) and shelved. Of course there is ALWAYS the possibility that another company could come along and buy the shelved product, but that's not always the case. Most likely the shelved product will simply go away.

Now I have absolute faith in this situation. Most likely a new company, independent of Mozilla, will be created to keep Thunderbird rolling. This "company" would more likely just be an umbrella for the Thunderbird Community Project. Basically - Thunderbird is taken over by the community at large.

There will probably be some unfortunate side effects of this. One such side effect is the forking of the code. Sometimes forking code can result in some spectacular developments. Sometimes forking can result in a total fubar of the code. Ultimately, what I think will happen is that Thurderbird will fork into these possible pieces:

1) Ultimate Thunderbird: This version will have every bell and whistle you can imagine.

2) Standard Thunderbird: This will pretty much just be a continuation of the current Thunderbird.

3) Thunderbird Ultra-Light: This will be a stripped-down, bare-bones Thunderbird that will be just shy of text-based clients.

And I would welcome all three. I personally would love to see what the community would do to this project.

I do enjoy open source software for many reasons...this being one of them. The possibilities reach well beyond that of proprietary software.

And now, I can't wait to install FireFox on my Treo680. Then, when my device crashes all the time, I'll at least be enjoying the Web more fully featured.

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.

7 comments
junkolator
junkolator

Like any other software Thunderbird has both strengths and weakinesses. Personally, I think it is worth furthering and refining. I am optimistic. I sure as heck would hate to be forced to use Outhouse or Outhouse Express!

cruizok
cruizok

there is always seamonkey...browser and integrated email.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

Is that the code is still there. It might get used in other projects, it might get picked up by volunteers, it might get picked apart and bits used in other projects... or it might die. But at least the options are there. Consider, on the other hand the fate of... for example the OS/2 code, sitting on a shelf doing nothing for all these years...

esolo62
esolo62

From what I read in other news, it may be getting bundled with the OpenOffice project to compete with M$ Office Suite.

steinr98
steinr98

I still use Netscape 7.2 and it fills all my needs- it has been on the back burner for a few years now. Actually I know over 10 people that still use this version of Netscape and 4 are geeks... Thunderbird will hold its own, I'm sure. steinr98

tspeed
tspeed

I've read elsewhere that the only two paid full-time developers for Thunderbird have just walked. Presumably they know more than we do and it can't be pretty. EOL anyone? Or maybe it will be picked up by a responsible owner and not go the way of Eudora?