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Mozilla Backs Off from Thunderbird Email Client

The Mozilla Foundation has announced that it will be changing gears with regard to the open-source Thunderbird email client, providing security updates and maintaining mechanisms for the Thunderbird community to continue development, but not pushing Thunderbird forward internally. Mitchell Baker, Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, was candid about how Mozilla has tried and failed for years to innovate with Thunderbird and to engage an active contributor base. Some will no doubt claim that this move portends the death of email; we would suggest it merely indicates that email is a mature and highly entrenched technology that does what most people want.favicon follow link


Comments about Mozilla Backs Off from Thunderbird Email Client
(Comments are closed.)

Ian Crew  2012-07-09 13:18
My take: It's not technically a discontinuation, but a decision that "continued innovation in Thunderbird is not a priority for Mozilla’s product efforts" while gutting the team that develops it. To-may-to, to-mah-to...

For example, will they support "Windows 9" or "Mac OS XI" (or whatever those next versions are called?) I tend to doubt it.

It's too bad. While I don't use Thunderbird, I still think that desktop software for managing email is pretty essential. All of the web-based ones suck in pretty major ways. One key example of that: The GMail web client cannot do partial-word searches. Let's say I remember an email that had something to do with computing, or computers, or something. I can't enter "comput" in the GMail search box and find it. I have to run multiple distinct searches for "compute," "computer," "computers," and "computing" to try to find it. Kind of shocking for a company whose roots are in search....
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-07-09 13:24
Yep, I'm sorry to see Thunderbird falling by the wayside too, although I do have to say that I've been unimpressed by the level of innovation in desktop clients. I wonder what will happen to clients like Postbox that rely on Thunderbird.

Although you are absolutely right about Gmail's lack of partial-word (and header) searching, I've found that it's not actually a concern in my real work, and its speed of searching makes up for a lot. And on the other side of the equation, Gmail is actually innovating, with features like Priority Inbox to bubble important message up to the top.
Ian Crew  2012-07-09 13:39
True, the innovation in GMail is good to see, but the lack of header searching and partial word stuff is something that I run into constantly.

Also, it, like every other webmail client I've run across, only supports pulling stuff from other accounts via POP, not IMAP, which makes switching to it a non-starter for me.

Admittedly, I'm pretty extreme when it comes to email. Checking just now, I have about 30GB of mail (dating back to 1994) and about 10 IMAP accounts that my desktop client is set up to check and aggregate into a single interface. I have yet to see any web-based client that could handle that!
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-07-09 13:42
That is indeed pretty extreme - I chose not to move old mail to Gmail, but I have 9.1 GB of mail in Gmail from just the last few years.

I tend to prefer forwarding to POP pickup in Gmail, and haven't run into a scenario where IMAP pickup would be useful. But everyone's needs vary.
Ian Crew  2012-07-09 13:31
Oh, and: Compare this announcement with the announcement of the "discontinuation" of Eudora, at and Sound familiar? ;-)
Dennis B. Swaney  2012-07-09 21:58
I am a regular T-bird user as it is the ONLY email client I found that let me display and navigate my email in my preferred way. still doesn't let me configure it to MY preferences but instead makes me use Microso --- err Apple's preferences. So now I guess I'll have to use the crappy
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-07-10 09:20
It sounds to me like Thunderbird will continue to work just about as it does now for a long time, so I don't think you'll need to switch. But you also shouldn't look for any major improvements.
Dennis B. Swaney  2012-07-13 11:04
Actually, I haven't really needed any of the improvements over Eudora. But Eudora doesn't run on my current iMac. The BIGGEST problem I'd have switching is moving all of my TidBITS issues over to the new client.
You're absolutely right about email being a mature technology. I use Entourage 2008, and it still covers pretty much all of my needs. If it weren't for having to upgrade the whole Office package back in 2009, I'd probably still be using an older version. In other words, I'm not aware (or I'm blissfully unaware) of any substantial improvement that any upgrade or any other mail application might provide. Incidentally, as a Firefox and previous Mozilla user, I had made a try at Thunderbird, but it just wouldn't import my Entourage databases satisfyingly.
Sherman Dickman  2012-07-11 18:04
In response to Mozilla's recent announcement on Thunderbird, we're now offering Postbox 3 at an "almost free" price of $9.95! We've also lowered the price for Postbox 3 Upgrades to $4.95, and with our Volume Discounts, you can outfit a team of ten for about $69.

We do not expect the Mozilla announcement to materially impact Postbox development. We've been innovating on the Mozilla platform for close to five years, and Postbox is now better than ever.

If you're a Thunderbird user looking for a new home, or someone who would like to make a meaningful change in your daily workflow, then now is a great time to try Postbox!
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-07-11 18:34
Presumably you've forked the Thunderbird code base fairly significantly at this point, Sherman? Postbox definitely has numerous advantages over Thunderbird, and I'm glad to hear this won't significantly affect you - we need independent and innovative mail clients to keep the big boys honest.
Dennis B. Swaney  2012-07-16 11:39
I consider those who just use the MS/Apple supplied applications like Outlook/Mail or IE/Safari as "lemmings" (though I could be considered one since I want an email client that I can configure like I did Eudora).