Mozilla To T-bird: Move Out
Mozilla has been supporting Thunderbird as a product since the beginning of the Foundation. The result is a good, solid product that provides an open alternative for desktop mail. However, the Thunderbird effort is dwarfed by the enormous energy and community focused on the web, Firefox and the ecosystem around it. As a result, Mozilla doesn’t support Thunderbird as much as we do browsing and Firefox and we don’t expect this to change in the foreseeable future. We are convinced that our current focus – delivering the web, mostly through browsing and related services – is the correct priority. At the same time, the Thunderbird team is extremely dedicated and competent, and we all want to see them do as much as possible with Thunderbird.
I use and like Thunderbird, but it is definitely something that you have to really want. One example is when you have multiple accounts, something that most ISPs routinely bundle these days. You might be firstname.lastname@example.org, but will you want that to be your address for Monster.com? No, you will want email@example.com or a similarly no-nonsense address.
So what does T-Bird do for you? It makes it more difficult to set this up, insisting that you should have one and only one sending address and server. I do not know who thought that up, but that alone is a reason I cannot recommend T-Bird for non-tech users with multiple addresses.
Another area that T-Bird can improve is in realizing that its competition is not the moribund Outlook Express, but the full-featured Outlook client as well as Web-based e-mail services. Having Lightning pre-installed will make the product significantly better, even if it is off by default. Sit down with Google and Yahoo! to discuss how to make their calendars and yours work together better. Maybe they don't get it yet, but I only have need for one calendar, or maybe (depending on your employer's level of paranoia) one for work and one for everything else.
If Thunderbird does get spun out, I’d suggest bundling Lightning and Sunbird into the new group also. My best suggestion is to work out some kind of partnership agreement with the Open Source Applications Foundation‘s Chandler Project to try to make something that is demonstrably better than Outlook / Exchange. Chandler (and its Cosmo server) has been slow-moving, so a few additional resources might really help out.
I have been watching T-Bird for some time, waiting for it to grow up into the kind of client that will really compete with proprietary clients. Right now, T-Bird lacks a few things that would make it the go-to client for power users.
- Better handling of newsgroups. I’d also like to see support for non-Usenet message boards, such as PHPBB sites.
- Built-in calendaring (the Lightning extension), with full support for iCalendar and optionally its vCalendar ancestor, plus CalDAV and importing from embedded hCal microformats in Web pages.
- Some task management and light project management functionality built in
- Integrated IRC, XMPP/Jabber, and SYLC client
- Integrated address book / contact manager
- Easy integration with major Web-based e-mail services.
The thing is, I know that Mozilla has limited resources. While I feel that T-Bird greatly benefits reputationally from its association with Firefox, T-Bird and Lightning / Sunbird need more community contributors. One thing that I think T-Bird has going for it is that it does not (as far as I know) depend upon Mono. There is growing uncertainty about Mono, given MSFT's patent saber-rattling, so avoiding Mono is good.