What's going to happen to the Thunderbird email client? This was one question that most users of the desktop program asked themselves when it was revealed that Mozilla wanted to drop the program.
Mozilla's intention in cutting the ties to Thunderbird were mostly caused by a desire to free up resources, and to avoid having to make sure Firefox changes don't impact Thunderbird in a problematic way.
Thunderbird's future was cloudy back then when the Thunderbird Council began talks with various organizations that could become the new home for the project.
Among the candidates were the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), the Document Foundation (TDF), and also a new deal with Mozilla Foundation. The council rejected the idea to establish an independent Thunderbird Foundation at the time as the first step.
The reason why SFC and TDF were not picked as Thunderbird's new home is pointed out in the official blog post:
Legally our existence is still under the Mozilla Foundation through their ownership of the trademark, and their control of the update path and websites that we use. This arrangement has been working well from Thunderbird’s point of view. But there are still pain points – build/release, localization, and divergent plans with respect to add-ons, to name a few. These are pain points for both Thunderbird and Firefox, and we obviously want them resolved. However, the Council feels these pain points would not be addressed by moving to TDF or SFC.
The Council managed to generate revenue by collecting donations, and has also made the first steps to migrate the infrastructure. This lead to an interesting revelation: while Mozilla wants to cut the ties to Thunderbird to improve and focus on Firefox development, it also wants the email client to do well, and does not really mind keeping it close under its own umbrella.
While Mozilla wants to be laser-focused on the success of Firefox, in recent discussions it was clear that they continue to have a strong desire to see Thunderbird succeed. In many ways, there is more need for independent and secure email than ever. As long as Thunderbird doesn’t slow down the progress of Firefox, there seems to be no significant obstacles for continued co-existence.
Philipp Kewisch announced today on the official Mozilla Thunderbird website that the new home of the Thunderbird project is its old home. While that sounds like a surprising turn of events at first, things won't be as they were when Mitchell Baker made the announcement back in 2015.
To continue being Thunderbird's home for the foreseeable future, the following is required of the Thunderbird Council:
- The Thunderbird Council and Mozilla Foundation "maintain a good working relationship and make decisions in a timely manner".
- The Thunderbird team makes "meaningful progress in short order on operational and technical independence from Mozilla Corporation".
Both sides are allowed to give the other a six months notice if they wish "to discontinue the Mozilla Foundation's role as the legal and fiscal host of the Thunderbird project".
Basically, what this means is that Mozilla is giving the Thunderbird project team time to become fully independent. This means, among other things, that the Thunderbird Council is responsible for all operations and the infrastructure.
As far as the future of Thunderbird is concerned, the following was noted:
- Thunderbird will continue to rely on the Gecko engine in midterm.
- The long term plan is to migrate the code to web technologies.
Now You: What's your take on this development?