Update: Thunderbird has come a long way since then. Thunderbird 3 is not the latest available version anymore and users interested in the program can download its latest version for Windows, Linux or Mac directly from Mozilla.
Mozilla in the meantime has handed over Thunderbird development to the community and while there have been regular bug and security fixes, development of new features or even feature improvements has slowed down considerably. Update end
David Ascher has published a Thunderbird 3 Planning mail where he details so called high level points and a rough road map for Thunderbird 3.
The main goal is to publish a public milestone build of Thunderbird 3 in 2008, with alpha builds in the first quarter, beta builds without calendar functionality in Q2, beta builds with calendar functionality in Q3 and widely useful builds in Q4, subject to change of course depending on development progress.
The main reason why Thunderbird has not been chosen by many users -in comparison to Gmail or Microsoft Outlook - is that it lacks certain features that users have come to expect from email services.
Thunderbird lacks support for a calendar for instance which Microsoft Outlook offers. Another issue that many users have with Thunderbird is that its search functionality is lacking both in terms of performance and results in comparison to that of services such as Gmail.
The main emphasize of Thunderbird 3 development is therefore to add a calendar natively to Thunderbird, and to improve the client's search functionality.
An integrated calendar function is in my opinion a solid step in the right direction because this really seems to be a function that most users would not want to miss. And installing an extension to add support for it as it is currently the case is not that helpful either because most average users don't even know that such a feature exists. Thunderbird users can install Lightning for Thunderbird directly from this page.
Besides these two functions the codebase will be revised quite a bit and patches plus bugfixes will also be released frequently. I'm looking forward to test the new releases of Thunderbird 3 once they come out, what about you ?
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