Technologizer

Mozilla Tells Thunderbird Users ‘Our Work Here Is Done’

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Mozilla ThunderbirdThe Mozilla Foundation may be synonymous with Firefox, but its e-mail client, Thunderbird, is just as venerable. However, the developer of open-source software has concluded that Thunderbird is as good as it’s going to get–or at least as good as it needs to be.

As Mozilla Chair Mitchell Baker explains in a blog post:

Much of Mozilla’s leadership — including that of the Thunderbird team — has come to the conclusion that on-going stability is the most important thing, and that continued innovation in Thunderbird is not a priority for Mozilla’s product efforts. (For more information about the path to this conclusion, see the “Background Information” section below.) As a result, the Thunderbird team has developed a plan that provides both stability for Thunderbird’s current state and allows the Thunderbird community to innovate if it chooses.

I’m not a Thunderbird user myself, and I’ve come to the conclusion that e-mail, more than any other application, wants to live in the cloud rather than on any particular computing device. Still, my gut reaction when I read Baker’s post was “What a shame.”

And then I thought: Why do we assume that software needs to receive upgrades ad infinitum? Nobody thinks that a painting gets better if the artist works on it indefinitely; few people believe that a TV series should run forever.

I know more than a few applications which have been around so long, and received so many revisions, that it’s not entirely clear that the “improvements” they get are always improvements. Some of the changes are just cruft, or stuff that wasn’t already in there for good reason.

In some cases, applications continue to get updates because they’re commercial products and their creators depend on the revenue from upgrades. But Mozilla, as a nonprofit, has no purely financial incentive to stay on the new-version treadmill. It can say: “This is good the way it is, and we have bigger fish to fry.”

Mind you, I don’t think that Thunderbird is the definitive e-mail client, or that e-mail is solved. Actually, e-mail is probably more broken than it’s ever been–more thoughts about that in a future post. But if anyone fixes it, they’re going to do it with a radical new service that lives on the Internet, not an extremely conventional piece of PC software.

7 comments
SteveKelem
SteveKelem

A year later, Thunderbird is still going strong.

I haven't trusted the cloud for anything that I want to keep private. I prefer to keep my email on my local device. However, after the revelations of the NSA monitoring everything, it probably doesn't make any difference (with respect to the spooks).

Besides, I get so much junk email, it's impractical to keep up with email on a mobile device, so the only alternative is a real computer and make use of the filtering mechanisms and folders to manage the bulk of it.

tbutler67
tbutler67

I dunno; I'm of the of the opinion that software that isn't being actively maintained is software that's destined for eventual death.

I'm not saying that that developers need to be constantly adding features, changing interfaces, etc; I do argue that software at the least needs maintenance to keep up with bug fixes, security patches (especially important with network-related software!) and operating system updates. 

The environment software lives in is constantly changing; expecting it to work forever without updates is foolhardy.

Dave Nelson
Dave Nelson

For once, I agree with the naysayers. Thunderbird is great as is. Don't "improve" it any more. Keep it as is, until the supporting infrastructure demands changes, then do them with as little interference as possible.

The_Constant_Programmer
The_Constant_Programmer

Thunderbird as it is now shouldn't be touched and messed with. There is no reason to change it. Orgs and programmers have messed with so many other programs and site interfaces that completely buggered everything about them up. Thunderbird is perfect the way it is. Let's keep it that way. They keep changing Facebook and now it's a horror compared to its former self. Safari was excellent until Apple changed it into a phone-only app that works horribly on computers. The new Twitter interface is similarly questionable. Keep Thunderbird perfect as it is and allow the public to look after it and add to it as they see fit!!

f_galton
f_galton

What's the word? Thunderbird. What's the price? Forty twice.

y2b4u3d
y2b4u3d

Yes it's the Firefox OS, they blinded by it and want to destroy their work for it, how shame...

Miyuki Ayumu
Miyuki Ayumu

I don't think they're abandoning Thunderbird in favor of FirefoxOS, I just think the developers feel that there's nothing more to do with Thunderbird. It's a wonderful, stable client, and it just doesn't need any more updates, that's all. They're not trying to "destroy" their work; Thunderbird will still run.