With Mozilla changing core features of Firefox and cutting ties with Thunderbird, it was not really clear what direction Thunderbird's development would take.
It was clear however that Mozilla's decision to drop legacy add-ons to embrace WebExtensions impacted Thunderbird.
A blog post on the official Thunderbird blog highlights what the Thunderbird developers have in store for the email client.
First the good news: Thunderbird won't drop legacy add-on support (just yet). The stable version of the email client is version 52.5.0 at the time of writing, the next major release probably Thunderbird 59.0 or 60.0 if Thunderbird follows Mozilla in postponing the next ESR release.
Add-on authors need to work on their extensions however to make them compatible with current beta versions of the email client. This does not mean full rewrites as WebExtensions, but it still means that developers need to modify extensions to make them compatible.
Information on the required modifications are available on the Thunderbird Wiki. Thunderbird will support WebExtensions, as well as legacy add-ons and hybrid extensions.
The team has not made an announcement in regards to the end of support of the legacy add-on system. It is unclear at this point in time if this is going to happen (likely), and when it is going to happen. The most pressing question is this: will the next ESR version of Thunderbird support legacy extensions?
Thunderbird 57 and newer versions of the email client come with a Photon design refresh. You can see this in recent beta releases of the email client. The screenshot that is attached to the article highlights the new interface.
It is not a massive change, but you will notice some changes such as rectangular tabs instead of curved ones.
The team is in a transition phase right now. The blog post highlights that four hires were made in 2016 and 2017 to strengthen development, infrastructure and communication. Plans are underway to make Thunderbird.net the new home of the project.
Thunderbird is not dead; that is a good thing. Development continues and it is a good thing that support for legacy add-ons remains a thing, at least for the foreseeable future.
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