Mozilla: Thunderbird's not our priority anymore

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 7, 2012
Updated • Jul 7, 2012
Email, Thunderbird

News broke earlier today that Mozilla had a huge announcement concerning the email client Thunderbird to make. Initially the news would have been released on Monday, but since it leaked early, the Chair of the Mozilla Foundation Mitchell Baker, decided to post information about it in a blog post as well.

A letter was sent out earlier to Mozilla employees detailing the plans ahead of the Monday news announcement. Mozilla basically stated that it made the decision to focus development efforts "towards important web and mobile projects" such as Firefox OS or the Firefox web browser, and that "continued innovation on Thunderbird is not the best use of" resources.

According to the letter, Mozilla is not stopping Thunderbird, but wants to move to a Thunderbird release and governance model which is providing the email client with security and stability maintenance, and community-driven innovation and development, updates.

What this means is that some staff that is currently part of the Thunderbird team will be moved to other project groups at Mozilla.

To sum it up: Thunderbird will still be around, but existing and new users should not get their hopes up to high that a lot of new features will see the light of day in the client, nor that existing features that could use an overhaul or bug fixing will receive that. It appears as if Mozilla plans to put the desktop email client on the backburner to only release security or stability patches when necessary, and hand over the rest of the development to the community.

Some users might say that there is not really anything wrong with the move away from Thunderbird, as it is providing access to its core feature, emails, just fine. Other features, for instance the recently introduced send large files feature will probably be put on ice. And while Mozilla plans to accept the help of community members to drive forward the development of the email client, it is not clear at this point in time if anyone will join the project to do so.

For some, it looks as if Mozilla is leaving the 20 million or so Thunderbird users left standing in the rain, while it is concentrating on its first mobile operating system Firefox OS and other mobile applications.

Are you using Thunderbird? If so, what is your take on the announcement? Will you move to another desktop email client? If so, which?


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  1. Sam said on October 30, 2021 at 4:42 pm

    What mozilla doesn’t realize is that nobody wanted the stupid change, Leave it alone. It didn’t need fixing.

  2. RichG said on October 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Tested quite a few replacements and found TheBAT! excellent. It is very versatile, includes encryption (Pro) on the mail so you can pass it through the cloud for syncing and not worry, and auto backup. It does take time to tweak but it is worth it. It reminds me of Poco mail but with more features.

  3. GettinBetter said on October 13, 2012 at 11:55 am

    So what It works for me as it is..why change anything. If it stops working then thats another matter.

    As for the mobile issue…well mobiles are primarily use by lazy adolescents, ok, I know some mobile comms are essential, but much is just impatience and laziness.

    I mean..many phones are little more than games consoles will a phone facility, not to mention that the manufacturers see them as a prime advertising platform, especially the fat finger syndrome for the pay per click fraternity.

    Bottom line is that you’ll nevver be able to see as much info on a mobile device as you will on a desktop, mobile obsessed users will always be first with the ‘news’ but lack the knowledge of any truefull details, and so you get a ‘chineese whispers’ generation.

  4. Tom said on September 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Swapped to Webmail years ago after multiple corruption issues with large folders using Thunderbird. No problems since I swapped. I understand the need to browse offline is a big issue for some people but for me, if I am offline, I have no need for email.

    Gmail / Hotmail / Yahoo webmail options work well for most people. I use Rackspace.

  5. Austin said on July 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    I’ve used Thunderbird since it’s very first releases, and for years I felt it was the best email client out there. However, this “EOL” announcement does not surprise me at all because over the last couple of years, I’ve felt that the once lean and mean Thunderbird has become a farm-bred turkey; bloated and buggy. Mozilla should feel embarrassed about how the quality and reliability of a once-great product was allowed to degrade. Personally, I think I will just give up on email altogether, and started telling everyone to text me instead. :-)

  6. b003 said on July 10, 2012 at 6:34 am

    My computer guy told me this. If it dies I’ll switch to Opera. Don’t like web mail at all.

  7. dallas7 said on July 9, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    TB 10 ESR is all that anyone needs and I applaud Mozilla for abandoning the trend to stuff all that browser app-crapp into an email client. I truly hope they will continue with the current life cycle to ESR 10.0.8 and on into the planned versions 17 and 24. If not, well then there are other clients even if I have to buy one. (Consider too that for TB, you get what you pay for.)

    It’ll be a cold day in hell when I use Web mail to communicate with my banks and conduct business with on-line merchants. I use my ISP’s mail and send/receive on ports 465 & 995 with endpoints restricted to the server IP addresses and I don’t leave anything on them.

    I use Web mail for worthless stuff and fun. I’m sure the clueless masses will do the same for their serious communications including those who think “But I’m using https!” Because NOTHING happens on http when using “secure” Web mail. Block port 80 and see how well that works. (Hint: it doesn’t.)

    1. Marc said on July 12, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      If your ISP doesn’t provide you with an email, how can you setup a secure* email?
      Second, why should you trust your ISP is not snooping on your emails?
      Then how can you setup a secure email for free*??
      The only solution would be perhaps a serverless email client, that the user might need to keep running otherwise they would appear as unreachable, and I’m unaware of any such existing client.

  8. Gary said on July 9, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Tb dies, no more email client. Tb is only client I like.

  9. Marc said on July 9, 2012 at 7:09 am

    I don’t know for sure what to think. Can a fork be expected? I actually hoped one day TB would be able to manage my mails and rss feeds in one place and archive them perhaps in The Mozilla Archive Format for offline reading + Sync with Google Reader for making sure I ddiin’t miss any items, in other words all my news in one single place coupled with the use of filters, and powerful TB search capabilities it would had been ideal, and would have changed the way I consume news.

  10. Michael Wilkinson said on July 8, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I like Tbird and when combined with Mozback up its perfect for my need and until something major goes wrong I will stick with it.
    Firefox however has been dropped as my browser, I can no longer get radio stations to play nor watch youtube etc with it and Im not tech savvy enough to figure out why.
    Opera and Chrome however do that just as they should and have become my default browsers.

  11. fanoy said on July 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I use Zimbra now :)

  12. Ken Saunders said on July 8, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Thunderbird is a great, solid, secure product and I’ll continue to use it for now and see what happens. I’ll even help out if I can.

    There aren’t any good alternatives. None that I trust or want.

  13. Virtualguy said on July 7, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    Thunderbird is a fast, stable and easy-to-use mail client. It does pretty much all a mail client should do. There comes a point where adding more bells and whistles really adds nothing useful and simply becomes bloat. The main reason I switched from Outlook years ago was because of the Outlook bloat. I don’t need for my mail client to cook my breakfast and polish my shoes. Just bringing me my mail reliably is all that I ask. Thank you, Mozilla Foundation, for this fine mail client.

  14. acr said on July 7, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    I don’t use Thunderbird anymore but kinda liked it a few years back. I switched to Outlook as I got a free license from work. I wonder if the Mozilla announcement also means that Lightening and Sunbird will be put on the back burner as well? Also, is Thunderbird compatible with Windows 8? I could understand Mozilla making such an announcement about putting Tbird on the backburner if it was not yet Windows 8 compatible. Otherwise the timing seems kinda awkward.

  15. Roman ShaRP said on July 7, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    As for me it’s not good. I had a plans to move some day to Thunderbird from proprietary e-mail client, one of the few non-free programs I still use.

    Web-interfaces doesn’t meet my demands.

  16. marius said on July 7, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Thunderbird should be made into an addon,or at lest some features,there’s no reason on this day and age to keep the mail client separated from the browser!

    1. RichG said on August 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      Ya, thats real smart. Did you think of security issues?

  17. Latz said on July 7, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Well, it seems it’s time to move on. I think i will evaluate “The Bat” and “Becky! mail” this weekend.

  18. Danny said on July 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Thunderbird was a decent client but I had to change it when it became too slow running off a thumb drive (portable). I used Sylpheed for a couple of years before settling on DreamMail, which I am now using for a year and a half. I tried using the latest version of TB but like the version I left almost four years ago, it’s still sluggish at best and unusable at worst.

    Mozilla should be applauded for this decision.

  19. batman said on July 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Am currently using Postbox, which is based on thunderbird.
    Wonder how they will take to these news.

    Either way, it still works. mail is not evolving as heavily as browsers(html5 etc) so as long as i can send and receive…i shall not panic :)

    1. Ed Nance said on September 17, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      Should make the folks at Postbox happy – it’s based on Thunderbird and I like it a whole lot better. It’s not free but certainly will not break the bank.

  20. Igor said on July 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Last two years i ise Sylpheed. I think that Thunderbird is good program, but it works too slow.

  21. garfield said on July 7, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    i can’t replace thunderbird with any other software. hope they won’t break it down.

  22. Nebulus said on July 7, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    I’m sad to hear about Thunderbird, it was my email client for years… But because of some bugs that weren’t solved in any of the new versions, I had to switch to another client (Sylpheed). I’m using it for almost a year now, and I find it perfect for my needs.

  23. Max said on July 7, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    TB has been the family mail client for many years. We started with the integrated Mozilla browser/mail/Web editor and continued to use it when they split to separated FF/TB clients.

    We’ve been keeping our email and bookmarks databases all these years, moving them on various platform upgrades: Windows and more revently Mac.

    For me, it’s always been a great email client and I will continue using it until it dies completely. I hope the community will keep it alive :-)

  24. Transcontinental said on July 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Firefox and brother Thunderbird are my daily companions since many years. Now, if Mozilla’s statement was to point to a factual decline of Thunderbird, I would return to what was previously my e-mail client, that is PocoMail, shareware but excellent, secure. But for now, no cloud client whatever webmail server.

  25. Tom said on July 7, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Why would people move on as long as there are security and stabliluty updates? As there wasn’t any significant usability improvements in Thunderbird since the 2.x versions (and problems with basic functions like message composition haven’t been fixed over the years) I don’t see anything changed with this decision…

  26. Roebie said on July 7, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Shame on you, Mozilla! First you ruin Firefox, now you drop Thunderbird. What exactly is the remaining reason for your existence?

    1. Paul said on July 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      What’s ruined in firefox?

    2. Transcontinental said on July 7, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      Mobile is driving everyone hysterical, when not plain nuts.

      1. JohnMWhite said on July 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm

        I strongly agree with that. It seems so much of the technology world is obsessed with mobile right now, to the point that they are throwing desktops under the proverbial bus. I do not understand the logic there – sure, it’s a growing market, but why does supporting the growing market mean you have to take steps to dismantle the one that’s already there? In short – why is Metro being forced on me sitting at my desk just so people can use it on their phone?

  27. Midnight said on July 7, 2012 at 7:22 am

    This is very disappointing news and I was hoping that it was only a rumour, but considering that this is the second place I’ve read about this, it seems that Mozilla is really abandoning the project. Really sucks!!

    I’ve been using Thunderbird since the beginning of it’s development and have always found it to be secure, feature rich and together with Lightning, has always been a great alternative to MS Outlook!

    I hope the community sticks together to keep it going, as IMHO, there’s no better e-mail client out there that can compete with Thunderbird!

  28. Swabbie said on July 7, 2012 at 7:04 am

    This to me signals me to look on to another email client no matter how much I like Thunderbird. Sadly so far I do not see that many viable alternatives for me out there so although I am still looking I am seriously considering a switch to web based email.

  29. JMGG said on July 7, 2012 at 3:48 am

    This is quite a shocker to me, I was rather hoping to see some of the more recent features that were announced be improved and expanded. But, I don’t think that many people could say they didn’t see this coming. Firefox was getting all these UI changes and memory improvements while Thunderbird just plodded along and pretty much stayed the same aside from the occasional bug fix and the last couple of drawing board designs that probably wouldn’t see themselves in stable releases for years to come. What I would like to see now is see Seamonkey take over the Thunderbird project entirely and merge it into Seamonkey’s mail capabilities. I think that spreading all these resources out is such a waste of time, so if Mozilla isn’t going to make Thunderbird a priority anymore, then they should get out of the way and let people who have been working alongside the project for years have a go at it. I think that this would significantly improve this one single goal of email management by taking in the best of both applications, Thunderbird and Seamonkey.

    1. Midnight said on July 7, 2012 at 7:24 am

      I agree and your comments make total sense!

      Sad to see Thunderbird die a slow, painful death!
      Doesn’t seem fair, but it’s a corporate decision that we all have to live with!

  30. Daniel said on July 7, 2012 at 2:31 am

    In more than one way, Thunderbird is still much better than Outlook.

    But, as far i’m concerned, it already seemed stagnant with regards to dev process. I dislike to say it, Firefox too (more gui changes than anything else over the last while).

    Opera’s recent SPDY annoucement suggests some big changes are in the air for the browser that has often given the cue for others like Firefox.

    The browser is here to stay for a while yet and and i don’t think people will be dumping their desktops that fast.

  31. boris said on July 7, 2012 at 2:26 am

    In the end web mail is the way for most people.

    1. Midnight said on July 7, 2012 at 7:25 am

      Not really!

      1. Ron said on September 17, 2012 at 10:01 pm

        I’d have to agree with Boris. Way back when, when we used to pay by the hour to be connected to the internet, having an e-mail client was necessary so you could read & work on your e-mail while offline. Nowadays, it’s almost rare for most people to be offline. I’m online constantly at home & work, and even when I travel I connect at my hotel or at a Starbucks. Not being tied to a client that’s installed on a specific machine means I can access my e-mail from multiple devices. The only reason I could see for having an offline client would be to keep a backup, and there are different backup solutions out there than using a full-scale e-mail client.

  32. fokka said on July 7, 2012 at 1:36 am

    i’m using tb for years now and while i don’t think it’s great piece of software, it does it’s job most of the time. so for me this announcement means i don’t need to wait for any improvements of tb and it’s time to look out for alternatives which better fit my needs.

  33. noob saibot said on July 7, 2012 at 1:26 am

    Not using Thunderbird anymore..I am a novice user,couldn’t get yahoo mail to work with it ….I use email quite frecvent,but is mostly webmail accounts,and POP peeper as a email notifier is great for that.. even if i must say an full desktop client (not notifier)which could handle all my accounts(2gmail,yahoo,hotmail,lavabit ) would be even better..

    1. Paul said on July 7, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      Yahoo demands payment for POP3 services.

      1. Khai said on July 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm

        yes and no. I’m using Yahoo Pop here without paying a penny. I think it depends on location.

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