Thunderbird Gets Instant Messaging Capabilities

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 9, 2012
Email, Thunderbird

When you look at the most recent releases of the Thunderbird email client, you'd be hard pressed to find major new features that the developers have added to the program. If everything goes along as planned, this is soon going to change as Mozilla plans to integrate instant messaging capabilities into Thunderbird 13. That's three major versions from the current stable version Thunderbird 10, or roughly 14 weeks from today.

The goal of the project is to bring instant messaging communications into the email client. The developers plan to unify all contact information in one single place, enable the searching of emails and instant messages using the search feature, and keep track of links "between related emails and IM conversations".

An experimental version of Thunderbird has been released that is already supporting Facebook Chat, Google Talk, Twitter and Internet Relay Chat. The integration is not final yet, both feature and design wise but the core functionality is already usable in the latest test build.

thunderbird instant messaging

If you are interested in trying out the test build, download it from Bugzilla where it has been posted near the end of the thread. Keep in mind though that you should not install this in a productive environment.

Adding instant messaging capabilities to Thunderbird is a controversial move. Mozilla always saw Thunderbird as a messaging client, and this would extend the client's capabilities significantly in this regard. A deep integration of email and chat options, with a single contact database in the back-end, could provide users with new communication options. One would be to switch from sending an email to chat if the user is listed as available in one of the supported chat services.

Some users on the other hand may see the integration as clutter. It is not clear how the feature will be rolled out in a stable version of the email client. If it is fully optional, it should not be overly problematic.

What's your take on the instant messaging integration in Thunderbird? Good move, or a waste of resources? (via Sören Hentzschel)


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  1. Rubo77 said on July 30, 2012 at 7:40 am

    i think it’s great.

    you can test it already it thunderbird 13 and 14:

  2. Brian LaLonde said on March 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    I’m all for it. This is a feature I came looking for today. I want to be able to message people on Facebook without launching Facebook (or Pidgin, etc). I tend to use the Facebook messaging asynchronously like email more often than synchronously anyway.

    So, for that, I already have a messaging application I’d like to use and it’s called Thunderbird.


  3. Taomyn said on March 12, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    They ought to concentrate on getting Calendar integrated before adding something like this. Without a decent calendar or any way to properly sync one they’re losing a lot of potential converts from Outlook.

    Something like LibreOffice already allows you to dump MS Office, but you’re still left without something to replace Outlook properly.

  4. ragz said on March 11, 2012 at 7:38 am

    I think it is a good move – thunderbird will become one place for all types of messaging
    the only concern is with the design of the implementation – thunderbird team is notoriously bad when it comes to making things less intuitive & messing up basic stuff

  5. kalmly said on March 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I’d rather keep my Thunderbird as small as possible. Let’s hope the IM will roll out as an option – then I can just let it roll on by.

  6. pd said on March 10, 2012 at 6:52 am

    Thunderbird’s performance issues and differences from Eudora still prevent me from adopting it. However libpurple integration (effectively what this is) is a big pull for me, if they do it right. I’d much rather have my personal chat logs off the ‘cloud’ (Google) than in it. Privacy matters.

    I’d guess this move is probably all motivated by B2G though, which is good or bad depending on your viewpoint. To compete in the mobile market, Mozilla will need a decent communications or messaging (call it was you will) product if they are insistent on providing a genuine non-oligopoly-operated alternative for users and that must be the main motivation behind this. That and someone had already done the majority of the work for them (InstantBird).

    1. Xolani said on March 22, 2012 at 10:09 pm

      Hey man thats true

  7. Dean said on March 10, 2012 at 12:18 am

    Meh, reckon I’ll just stick with Pidgin for the few people I have on IM.

    Email is for email.

  8. Eric Caron said on March 9, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    The brains behind this Mozilla-funded addition is the same person who leads Instantbird ( development. Instantbird is the Mozilla/Pidgin cross-breed instant messenger that was previously covered at

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