The extension system of the Thunderbird email client is changing. The email client is based on Firefox code to a large degree and since Mozilla changed the extension system to WebExtensions, it was only a matter of time before Thunderbird's extension system would be switched over as well.
The process started with the release of Thunderbird 68. Extension developers had to update their extensions so that users could continue to use them in the new version of the email client. Some extensions, those not updated by their developers, are not compatible with Thunderbird 68 already.
The development team plans to finalize the add-on system changes in Thunderbird 78 (expected to be released in June 2020). The team notes that developers of legacy extensions have two options going forward:
MailExtensions are WebExtensions but with "some added features specific to Thunderbird". Thunderbird developers should prefer the system "to ensure future compatibility".
Thunderbird extension developer Jonathan Kamens maintains eleven add-ons for the email client currently. Extensions like Send Later, Reply to Multiple Messages, userchromeJS, or IMAP Received Data have either been created by him directly or taken over to ensure that they remain available for users of the email client.
Kamens created a Kickstarter campaign to support continued development of the extensions and to ensure that the extensions will remain compatible with Thunderbird 78 and future versions of the email client.
He decided to use a subscription model but with the option of acquiring a perpetual license for all current and future add-ons.
Interested users may pay $5, $10 or $25 per year to gain access to one, three or all extensions for the period of 2 years. The perpetual license is available for $50 and guarantees access to all add-ons for one user (including new add-ons).
Paid means that the extensions will no longer be available for free when Thunderbird 78 launches. Kamens notes that he would be pleased equally if other extension developers would take over some of the extensions to ensure that they remain compatible with Thunderbird 78 and future versions of the email client, and that this is also an option to keep these extensions free of charge.
This Kickstarter campaign may actually help me find people willing to take over my add-ons and maintain them for free. If this campaign succeeds, and some of my add-ons do get adopted by new maintainers, then I'll pay them from the proceeds of the campaign. Having that on offer may help me attract new maintainers for my add-ons, so you may get to keep using the add-ons for free even after the licenses I'm offering in this campaign would have expired.
With 56 days to go, €18,530 has already been collected. The goal of the campaign has been set to €45,340.
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