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Thunderbird in Crisis? 422

Posted by Zonk
from the film-at-eleven dept.
Elektroschock writes "The two core developers of Thunderbird have left Mozilla. Scott McGregor made a brief statement: 'I wanted to let the Thunderbird community know that Friday October 12th will be my last day as an employee of the Mozilla Corporation.' Meanwhile, David Bienvenu blogged: 'Just wanted to let everyone know that my last day at The Mozilla Corporation will be Oct. 12. I intend to stay involved with Thunderbird... I've enjoyed working at Mozilla a lot, and I wish Mozilla Co and the new Mail Co all the best.' A few month ago Mozilla management considered abandoning their second product and setting up a special corporation just for the mail client. Scott was more or less supportive. David joined in. While Sunbird just released a new version no appropriate resources were dedicated to the missing component. And while Thunderbird became the most used Linux mail client it has been abandoned by Mozilla for 'popularity reasons'. Both messages from David and Scott do not sound as if the founders will play any role in the Thunderbird Mail Corporation. What happened to Mozilla? Is it a case of pauperization through donations?"
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Thunderbird in Crisis?

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  • Still good... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nefarious Wheel (628136) * on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:14AM (#20894657) Journal
    I will continue to use it even if it never changes again. I like it. Maybe it's just *that* stable?
  • Natural Selection (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:17AM (#20894675)
    The source code is out there. If it serves a useful purpose, someone will either take it and continue or fork it.

    If not, then someone will eventually come out with something better.
  • by EjectButton (618561) on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:17AM (#20894677)
    I use thunderbird quite a bit but I wonder if heavy email clients have much future. Of all the applications where a web client can replace a heavy desktop side client email seems like one of the easiest and google has proven that you can make a webmail client that isn't painful to use.
  • by mind21_98 (18647) on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:18AM (#20894681) Homepage Journal
    And it'd be sad if it disappeared, but Apple Mail, Evolution and Gmail are better options on non-Windows platforms. That's probably why it's not as popular as it should be.

    (also, if you're careful enough, Outlook and Outlook Express are perfectly usable on Windows, especially the newer versions)
  • Re:Still good... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@[ ]mail.com ['hot' in gap]> on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:30AM (#20894741) Journal
    I will continue to use it even if it never changes again. I like it.

    I use the Thunder/SunBird combo too, but it would be good to see it continue being developed. Given the possible split from Mozilla, I'd like to see OpenOffice.org take an interest.

  • by vux984 (928602) on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:35AM (#20894767)
    I hate gmail, and webmail interfaces in general.

    1) Decent integration with -other- applications is non-existent. (even simple stuff like sending an attachment from the windows desktop, or the iphoto / mail.app link on OSX) webmail doesn't compare.

    2) When I decide to just quit all windows of my web-browser to clean up my desktop I hate that the mail gets closed too. I like that its a separate application, one that doesn't crash when I visit a website that kills the browser.

    3) No offline functionality.

    4) Large Attachments have to be 'downloaded' when I need them. I often leave stuff as email attachments, and then just open the attachment when I need to look at it. On my 'heavy' mail client its a fraction of a second to open it.

    5) PRIVACY. You can't rely on that with webmail.

    6) User experience. Gmail is 'comparable' to a real application, in the same way that a mock-up looks like a real product. From 4 feet away it might even look the same, but start using it and its immediately obvious you are using a web based application. Maybe one day that won't be true; but 'html + javascript + xmlrequest' won't be the platform its built on.

    Webmail is a great technology but it doesn't replace a good mail client, it complements it.

  • by WingCmdr (100480) on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:36AM (#20894777)
    I really don't like google's webmail client. I much prefer yahoo mail. And Hot(spam)mail is my least favorite.
  • Re:Mozilla Inc (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@[ ]mail.com ['hot' in gap]> on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:37AM (#20894789) Journal
    Mozilla is looking more and more like a normal corporation, and less like a Open Source supporter.

    Most Open Source supporters ARE normal corporations.

  • by Rakishi (759894) on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:59AM (#20894927)
    Read what you replied to again, note the word "supporter."
  • by flydpnkrtn (114575) on Monday October 08, 2007 @03:05AM (#20894955)
    I would say that due to the fact that we're approaching the end of 2007 and Thunderbird still doesn't have integrated calendaring (not in beta, that's a copout), then yes, Thunderbird is in crisis.

    Until feature-for-feature Thunderbird can equal or beat Outlook it will never have people flocking to it like Firefox did.

    Look at Firefox versus IE 6 - heck, Firefox basically "inspired" IE 7 (tabs, search bar on the top right, extensions, etc. etc.) That's what led to the huge masses adopting it.

    The fact that Zimbra has released a cross-platform offline client instead of extending Thunderbird to fit their needs speaks volumes.
    http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/03/26/zimbra-to-lauch-desktop-application-with-full-offline-functionality/ [techcrunch.com]
  • "IMHO MoFo should be reorganized..."

    To many people, MoFo [thefreedictionary.com] means something offensive. Perhaps MozFo would be better.

    Two things seem to have affected MozFo: 1) It is headed by someone with no technical experience, Winifred Mitchell Baker [wikipedia.org]. 2) Google has been giving MozFo $50,000,000 per year because Google search is the default search engine.

    I would very much like to hear more about what's happening with MozFo.
  • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Monday October 08, 2007 @03:18AM (#20895009) Homepage Journal
    Well said.

    I'll just add to that:

    7) Integration with old mail. I've got email dating back 10 years. I don't know of any way to import that into gmail. But I can import my gmail into my offline mail app.

    I don't want to lose my mail history every time I switch webmail providers.
  • by J0nne (924579) on Monday October 08, 2007 @03:20AM (#20895021)
    Why does an e-mail application need a calendar? Wouldn't it be better to just use a calendar application to handle calendar stuff?
  • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Monday October 08, 2007 @03:20AM (#20895025)
    Why *should* an email program have *integrated* calendaring? A separate program like Sunbird makes more sense to me, as long as the programs work together seamlessly. Which is not to say that Thunderbird and Sunbird work together particularly well, but I think they have the right idea, just like Apple with Mail.app + iCal + Address Book. I will agree that nothing out there handles as well as Outlook yet, but that's because Microsoft has thrown massive resources at it. I think that any PIM software would be better implemented as a cluster of mini-apps, which each do one thing well, and communicate via a good set of APIs.
  • by rm999 (775449) on Monday October 08, 2007 @03:23AM (#20895043)
    I've been waiting five years for a decent e-mail application, which is a lot of time in the tech world. Maybe somebody will come out with something better, but it's irrelvant to me - I stopped waiting and moved everything to gmail.
  • by Soko (17987) on Monday October 08, 2007 @03:34AM (#20895091) Homepage
    The reason Thunderbird won't gain the same traction as Firefox has is Exchange. The Thunderbird developers have made a great email client, but they've hit the wrong target. They, along with GMail et. al. have killed off Eudora and Pegasus, not Outlook. (aside - here's hoping IncrediMail is next)

    Email has evolved into a collaboration tool, not just a way of sending words in ASCII. Plain and simple, until your contacts can email you a meeting request and TBird puts it in your calendar automagically - and that meeting goes in your BlackBerry/Treo/Gizmo-of-the-week - it won't gain near the same buzz. Outlook + Exchange adds far too much business value to simply abandon in the name of Open and Free.

    If you just need email, Thunderbird is OK-fine - if you need collaboration, you need Outlook. It's a damn shame, too.

  • by Lurks (526137) on Monday October 08, 2007 @03:47AM (#20895143) Homepage
    You could try The Bat. It's the most advanced old-school full featured mail client around really.

    I use it for work email because I need to be able to tailor ways I write email according to folders (internal/external mail etc). That said, I do my personal mail on gmail because I need to read it on any machines and because I use it as a sort of knowledge database. Searching email in a real client always takes years where as in Gmail it keeps everything, ever, and takes a fraction of a second to search it. That's a killer feature right there.

  • Re:Still good... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2007 @04:08AM (#20895263)

    I will continue to use it even if it never changes again. I like it. Maybe it's just *that* stable?
    Although it could be considered stable now, what happens if new vulnerabilities are identified and not patched? Would you continue to use it then?
  • by dodobh (65811) on Monday October 08, 2007 @04:08AM (#20895269) Homepage
    Just get your own domain, and have it hosted somewhere else.
  • by Elektroschock (659467) on Monday October 08, 2007 @05:17AM (#20895683)
    But they have cash unlike other Open Source projects. Mozilla sits on money. I don't understand this. When Mozilla was experimental we used their x crappy products. And I thought when firefox gets a success Thunderbird will get appropriate cross-financing, and then Sunbird as well. But nothing happened. NVU is patched externally as Kompozer. Does Mozilla support these volunteers? No. Not our code. They apply a totally broken business ideology.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2007 @05:17AM (#20895689)
    The Mozilla Corporation has become something steeped more in PR and spin than actual technical innovation. We are partly to blame - we allowed ourselves to get caught up in it while a faceless organization silently emerged, focused on shipping more and more units of today's flavor... while beating the drum: there must be only one flavor of innovation... doesn't matter what it is as long as we are in control of the ideology and the message... keeps things simple for the marketdroids and the consumers. Actually maintaining choice and innovation on the internet is hard. Why bother when you can cut corners and say you didn't? Everyone will believe you anyway, so what's the point? That's the way things are done in America today. Why should Open Source be any different? Mozilla is a Public Asset after all. An open, egalitarian society where everyone can make a difference as long as you kiss the right ass and don't ask too many challenging questions of those in charge. Mozilla is a public asset. Just keep saying it over and over.

    In this matter, everyone is being too cordial to be believed at face value. Doubtless there's a rich subtext. Such is life.
  • by neutrino38 (1037806) on Monday October 08, 2007 @05:25AM (#20895741) Homepage Journal
    Yes,

    But I believe the issue here is a resource issue. TB is a stable mail client software but it sits within its own world.

    What it needs is more integration to third parties. I would suggest:

    - compatibility with system address book (e.g. on Mac OS X)
    - ability to natively synchronize with mobiles phones in regards with contacts and appointment
    - ability to send / receive SMS and MMS from TB
    - compatibility with calandar, task back end from major CRM softwares (SugarOS).

    I would aso suggest the partnership with an open source calendaring and task management server to propose a complete package. Finally, Exchange compatibilty could be addressed by building an extension based OpenChange http://www.openchange.org/ [openchange.org]

    So again, the same question arises : who will have time, dedidication and money to do all this.

    Emmanuel
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2007 @06:11AM (#20896005)
    I said more-or-less because there are still major email programs that don't support it - like Outlook.

    That's one of the dumber things I've heard all week. mbox is a standard, Outlook doesn't support, that's Thunderbirds problem?

    Calling mbox "proprietary" just shows how clueless you are. Why not admit you were wrong instead of digging your hole even deeper?
  • by DrXym (126579) on Monday October 08, 2007 @06:14AM (#20896021)
    Thunderbird would be a hell of a lot more popular if it supported Exchange - private & public folders, address book, resources. Sunbird would have to be part of the solution for tasks and appointments. There is already code to connect available in Evolution, so why not make use of it in Thunderbird? I know in theory that you could configure IMAP on MS Exchange, but I'm talking or proper support.

    The advantage of Thunderbird over Evolution is that it runs on all major platforms. Evolution does have a port for Windows, but it's pretty poor. I expect that a lot of companies would be interested in a Thunderbird client (and paying support for it) if it would support the mail server they use.

    Perhaps Thunderbird / Sunbird should even move to the OpenOffice project. After all, an Outlook app must be the major the missing component in the OpenOffice suite, and here is one ready for adoption.

  • by Mostly a lurker (634878) on Monday October 08, 2007 @06:52AM (#20896309)
    I agree that Microsoft wishes to kill Outlook Express and replace it with something that generates them revenue. I do not agree that Outlook is better than Outlook Express as a pure email client.

    Outlook Express certainly has weaknesses, but it is relatively standards compliant. If one of my customers sends me an email using Outlook Express, I will be able to read it with whatever email client I am using at the time. If someone uses Outlook to send me mail, I may be faced with a Winmail.DAT attachment that nothing except Outlook (and a few webmail sites) can interpret. Similarly, any mail that I have stored in Outlook Express is easily exported to other mail clients. With Outlook, third party products are necessary to avoid serious lock-in. In some areas (again, considering just email in isolation) OE has better functionality. In particular, the IMAP support in OE is better than that in Outlook 2003.

    Every site I have ever been to that uses Outlook experiences periodic Outlook lock-ups. These will often clear themselves after a few minutes, but have a real impact on productivity. Sometimes, their cause is quite mysterious.

    I allow that Outlook in conjunction with Exchange has some compelling functionality, especially in the areas of shared folders and calendar/task management. These make Outlook an appropriate choice at times, but I am always relieved when the decision goes against Outlook.

  • Re:Still good... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Crayon Kid (700279) on Monday October 08, 2007 @06:53AM (#20896323)
    To be frank, I never liked the mbox approach (one big file per folder). I much prefer the maildir approach (each message in its own file). It's cleaner and even if the mail application breaks the structure is still intuitive (there's the folders, there's the messages).
  • Re:Still good... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by walt-sjc (145127) on Monday October 08, 2007 @07:46AM (#20896763)
    Some of us already run our own imap servers. I would never go back to having all my mail stuck in some random mail client. I have mail archives that go back to around 1996 that I would hate to lose (which is why I have (tested) backups.) But more than that, I want my email archive accessible no matter where I am, which is why my IMAP store is also available via squirrel-mail. As a bonus, "Chatter" on the palm Treo supports push via IMAP, so I get access to my email that way too.

    Thunderbird is great, and I use it occasionally. I also recommend it to others all the time. My main clients however are Mutt and Evolution. Mutt for my own IMAP server, Evolution to talk to the "Evil" Exchange Server (which doesn't have IMAP open for some bizarre reason.) Why Mutt? Because "all mail clients suck. Mutt just sucks less."

  • by dave420 (699308) on Monday October 08, 2007 @08:11AM (#20897013)
    Because thinking about email as just being email is a bit short-sighted. I'm not being rude, but emails rarely start and end with the conversation, especially in a work-place. Outlook is as strong as it is because the Outlook team realises that. That's why they have built in various features people in offices love to use - shared folders, global address books, calendars, etc. It's the same reason email clients are also usually NNTP clients - it's all about communication. Calendars, shared folders, web-accessible email, IM, etc. are other facets of communication many businesses want in one single place. Microsoft has (for better or worse) made a solution that does all of that, and people seem to love it. Standing up saying everyone else is wrong isn't going to help Thunderbird, or any software, that is trying to do something most folks don't want.
  • by div_2n (525075) on Monday October 08, 2007 @08:31AM (#20897203)
    I believe the reason many people don't see the deep connection between emailing and calendaring is the way they use the two. If you use your calendar simply to schedule _your_ day and don't get involved with other people, then I can see where you wouldn't find integration useful.

    Now let's say you are scheduling meetings with multiple people in multiple buildings. When you send a meeting request, doesn't email seem like the best place for that request to land? They click a button of some sort embedded in the message to accept (or reject) your meeting request. The sauce behind what happens next is what I think leads to a valid decision to marry the two. If you had a separate program for calendaring, how would the email client signal the calendaring solution of the acceptance?

    I don't doubt workable solutions could be offered. I'm just suggesting the most _logical_ shortest path of least resistance is indeed to have them integrated.
  • by vux984 (928602) on Monday October 08, 2007 @08:35AM (#20897231)
    Its not so much the policy itself, its the impact of the policy.

    Consider how much information they potentially have about you if your an avid google fan... and even if your not they have a shocking amount of data.

    They might have any or all of the following:

    1) your email (and your contacts)
    2) your search history...
    3) the analytics information from any site you visited using google analytics (no small number)
    4) your conversations in google talk...
    5) your youtube activity...
    6) your google documents...
    7) what ads you've clicked on (assuming they were google or doubleclick ads which form a significant chunk of them.)
    8) your picasa activities
    9) your computers contents if you use google desktop
    9) They likely even combine it with what is attributed to you on the public web

    From that they can fairly reliably deduce where you bank, what credit cards you have, what products you own, where you live, where you go, your sexual orientation, your age, your job, whether you have kids, your income level, where you vacation, your education level, and so on and so on...

    Combine all that with:

    "We may combine the information you submit under your account with information from other Google services or third parties in order to provide you with a better experience and to improve the quality of our services. For certain services, we may give you the opportunity to opt out of combining such information."

    Considering that the primary service they offer is highly detailed profiles of various demographics to advertisers, improving their primary service means building better profiles. Even if they have a policy of not sharing 'personal' information, what do they define as personal?

    If you take a profile as detailed as the one's google has on some people and 'anonymise' it how hard would it be to fill in the blanks? Does google anonymize it internally? Nope.

    I don't think they are at this stage yet where they are actually doing this level of cross indexing to identify people, but its coming.

    And I for one, realize that what I do on the web is largely in plain sight to the world.

    Its not a big issue if your ISP knows where you go, an advertising company knows what you click on, and a search engine company knows what you search for, and your phone company knows who you call, but you combine all that information in one place, and then give them your email, your pictures, your documents, and your contacts... and it paints a very different picture.

    I don't intend on helping them profile me more than I have to, feeding them valuable personal information, in exchange for what? "free webmail"?
  • GMail (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Apreche (239272) on Monday October 08, 2007 @08:45AM (#20897339) Homepage Journal
    GMail killed Thunderbird. Until we replace the SMTP/IMAP/POP e-mail system with something better, desktop e-mail will continue to be primarily the domain of businesses. Even then, it will mostly be done with Exchange/Outlook and Evolution.
  • by gosand (234100) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:02AM (#20898227)
    Outlook + Exchange adds far too much business value to simply abandon in the name of Open and Free.


    Yep... I always *hated* outlook for email (still do). But I use it daily at work. At work, I am constantly getting scheduled for meetings, or scheduling them myself. These meetings are always with people in different cities, states, or even different countries. You can look at other people's calendars, and see if they have declined/accepted a meeting. There are a few glitches, but overall it works very well. I use Office Communicator as much as email. Although I can't stand many things about it, it does integrate nicely with the corporate address book. If someone is in a meeting, their status goes to "in a meeting". If only they would have tabbed windows and allow logging of conversations. You can email a conversation, which is nice, but there are times when you forget to do it.


    Overall, I have gained a real appreciation for using these tools in business by using them daily.


    And if you think I have gone soft, I still use pine as my primary mail client at home. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:29AM (#20898541)
    Once you've imported it to an imap folder, why wouldn't you leave it there?
  • by Hohlraum (135212) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:54AM (#20898895) Homepage
    don't use Thunderbird simply because it doesn't have a Received Date option? I'm not kidding you. Every person I've EVER talked to about Thunderbird and why they don't use it brought this up. Its all these stupid little issues that they just ignore that got them where they are today.
  • by Seumas (6865) on Monday October 08, 2007 @11:21AM (#20899231)
    Yes, but what in the hell does Mozilla need $50m per year for? Do the top developers fly from the east coast to mountain view by private jet every morning to begin the work day or something?!
  • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Monday October 08, 2007 @11:38AM (#20899439)
    There seems to be two ways to go ... The Outlook way [Do everything become a PIM and forget about being an email client] or the Thunderbird/Outlook Express/etc... way - be an email client ...

    Outlook is a awful email client for anything but Exchange. It's IMAP support is flawed it's POP3 support is patchy, it's insistence on defaulting to it's own TNEF format is horrible, most of it's workgroup features only work on one (or a cluster) of Exchange servers and not between clients on different servers and not at all if the client is not a MAPI client

    The number of times I have been sent stuff that I cannot read that turns out to be a file attachment or meeting request (or similar) from an Outlook client is unbelieveable

    Go on send someone a calendar, link to a shared folder, etc and even if they are running Outlook unless they are n the same Exchange server they will not have access to it ...That's the reality of the Outlook Client

    The part I hate though is the way it reformats emails removes "redundant" line-endings etc. and generally misformats HTML emails (even ones generated by Outlook itself) and then corrupts it's own mailstore (which is generally unrecoverable since it is in closed binary format, but even though the mailstore is basically a database it's search function is slow and seems very good at not finding emails....

    This is why I use Thunderbird on an Exchange Server rather than Outlook ...even though Outlook does more .. I got sick of it's "way of doing things" ...

  • by pjr.cc (760528) on Monday October 08, 2007 @11:44AM (#20899525)
    Being able to integrate with exchange would be MARVELOUS - if it were open. And by that i dont mean that Exchange should be open, but the communication with it. Take a look at things like:

    http://sourceforge.net/projects/openchange/ [sourceforge.net]

    There have been MANY projects to try and pull apart that communications channel into a library that could be implemented anywhere and no one has managed it (yet). The original work (above) was about trying to make an exchange (server) replacement, but now its extending into implementing client connectivity. Hell, evolution only manages to do it by going thru the OWA (which is a hack at best). So everyone sitting there going "oh it should have exchange connectivity" paleeease write to MS and tell them they should open the protocols (personally, i think they should be forced to do this).. It would be fair to say that it would be nice if it had a real calendar/colab tool for the corporate environment, but if your using this at home you really REALLY need to get a more spontaneous life, seriously!.
  • OT: mail archives (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pintpusher (854001) on Monday October 08, 2007 @12:51PM (#20900455) Journal
    As someone who is now collecting a fairly significant backlog of mail archives, I gotta ask: Is it worth it? How often do you actually need access to those archives and do they provide the resource you think they should? I know storage is cheap and I've got plenty of it, so I don't think I'll *stop* archiving, but sometimes I wonder. I've had to access them once in about 3 years. I was able to zgrep a big zip archive of emails to find a reference I needed, but it wasn't something I could live without. Convenient? yes. worth the time and effort to maintain those archives? probably not.

    Part of my motivation for asking is because I've changed the way I file my paper files and suspect that I could treat my email the same way. I now file all my stuff, unsorted, in a box. The typical office depot collapsible box will hold about 3 months worth of records. 99% of the time, if I need something out of the "files" its in the current box in reverse chronological order and relatively easy to find. Boxes go in storage with the date range on them and after a few years, just get thrown out. I waste 0 time filing and since in reality almost never need access to the back files, there's no real penalty in the retrieval time either.

    meh. must be a slow day.
  • Money? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Danious (202113) on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:00PM (#20900583) Homepage
    Mozilla makes a fortune from Firefox thanks to their Google deal, so Firefox is self-funding where-as Thunderbird has no potential revenue stream so is just seen as a drain on resources. That's what happens when your corporatise an open source project, the money clouds your vision and detracts from your goals. The tin-foil hat brigade out there might even suggest that Thunderbird, as a competitor to Google, threatens Mozilla's main revenue stream and so may well be paying the price for Googles ongoing support...
  • Re:Still good... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by afabbro (33948) on Monday October 08, 2007 @03:10PM (#20902481) Homepage
    The only thing I can think of is the fact that I don't have ads on the edge of my screen with Thunderbird as I do with the Gmail web interface.

    Which, of course, is the first thing Google thinks of...

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