Thunderbird Joins The Rapid Release Process, Introduces Shredder, Miramar and Earlybird

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 17, 2011
Updated • Aug 10, 2015
Email, Thunderbird

I'm not a huge fan of the rapid release process of the Firefox web browser or Google Chrome. Not so much as a user but as someone who is interested in following the development of a web browser, and a webmaster who likes to write about it.

A new version every three months or so, and a confusing assortment of release channels makes it less interesting to keep an overview over each channel. With four channels for Firefox and Google Chrome alone each, I already have to spend a considerable amount of time to keep an eye on all developments.

Thunderbird recently joined the rapid release process as well, with the beta versions recently jumping a version to version 5.

Instead of using Firefox's naming convention, which is stable, beta, aurora and nightly, the developers have decided to introduce a new set of channel names. The nightly versions of Thunderbird are called Shredder, the Aurora versions Earlybird and the beta versions Miramar. The latest nightly versions are already at version 7, while the latest stable releases are at version 3.

Update: Names have changed. While Earlybird is still a thing, Shreed and Miramar are not anymore. Shredder is called Nightly now and Miramar Beta.

We have already looked at the features that Mozilla Messaging plans to introduce in Thunderbird 5 and you can get the full overview of things to come here.

Among the changes are a new add-on manager that looks identical to the extensions manager of the Firefox web browser.

Other new features include a revised account setup wizard that has been optimized once again, an optimized display of email attachments including attachment sizes, tab reordering and a new troubleshooting information page.

Interested users can download Thunderbird 5 Beta from the early releases page over at Mozilla Messaging. The beta version is available for all supported operating systems and languages. Nightly releases are currently only available on the official ftp server.

What's your take on the rapid release process and the new names for the different Thunderbird channels? Let me know in the comments. (via)


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  1. David Rees said on October 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I agree the additional naming scheme is confusing, and its worse to think that the even more confusing Aurora approach is the root of it. It should have been called Alpha like every other product on the planet, and more specifically it should have been called Firefox Alpha. Alpha serve the exact same purpose as Aurora and also allow removing features (which is why I am guessing they didn’t want to call it Firefox Alpha).
    All that said, I don’t see why Thunderbird needs Firefox to rename Aurora to call nightly and beta the right thing. And since Aurora is a (IMHO) bad idea, why not just call the alpha channel Thunderbird Alpha?

  2. JMJ said on August 27, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Have they fixed the crashes?? I updated to 5 and it keeps crashing as soon as it started. I had to go back to 3.1. Posted in their forum, never gets a reply and so does a lot of people.

  3. Blake Winton said on June 22, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Martin and Ryan: To be fair, we couldn’t use Firefox’s names, or our would overwrite Firefox’s when you installed it. So we had to come up with different names, and those were the best we could do. If you have any suggestions that are much better than what we came up with, I’ld love to hear them (although I suspect it’s too late for us to switch).

    Crodol: I’m hoping that the new releases will be simpler, not more confusing. For the end-user we’ll be deemphasizing the version numbers, so all they’ll need to know is “I’m on Thunderbird.”, and we’ll take care of making sure it’s the most recent version.

    Daniel: Perhaps you’re looking for SeaMonkey, at ? It’s basically Firefox and Thunderbird bundled together, and so should be less to keep track of.

    Thanks for your comments,
    Blake (Thunderbird User Experience Lead).

    1. fokka said on June 24, 2011 at 12:22 am

      how about and

      1. Blake Winton said on June 24, 2011 at 1:43 am

        If you think you can convince Firefox to name their product “aurora_ff” (and also change the name of the icon, cause that’s what shows up in the dock, and having two “Aurora”s there would be similarly confusing), please go for it. :)

        I would love to use Aurora, even Aurora_tb, or AuroraTb, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.


  4. Daniel said on June 18, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    They should have kept it in one package with browser.
    Wouldn’t that be easier for everyone to keep tabs on?

    The main issue as far as i’m concerned is addons compatibility.
    The average user doesn’t know about Thunderbird and even less on how to override compatibility check (which isn’t flawless).

    Outlook 2010 costs but works.

  5. Crodol said on June 17, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    They should not introduce more confusion! It is already complicated enough! Makes me want to switch back to 3.6 resp. MS Outlook!

  6. Ryan D. Lang said on June 17, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    I’m not fond of the new naming convention. The old ones were self-explanatory.

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