|The Death of Thunderbird - thursday 2007-07-26 2335||last modified 2007-07-31 2220|
I wonder if the community buy-in to Mozilla Thunderbird that I'd been rather counting on in being a user and an extension developer is about to be trashed. It's true, there aren't really any good desktop mail clients out there, and Thunderbird barely pushes any boundaries. But it's open source, easily extensible (delta learning XUL), and used to depend on a well-coordinated source tree and release system, thanks to the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. The personnel infrastructure appears to be on its way out, however, now that the higher ups at the Foundation have decided to cut Thunderbird loose.
I started out with AOL mail (hey, we all start somewhere), moved on to some Microsoft desktop mail product, then to Eudora, then to the command line (nmh and mutt). When laptops started to dominate my computing existence, I found I needed a desktop offline client; Thunderbird had just come out, and that was it.
I don't know any other games to join now; certainly none of my prior clients are any good (in fact, Eudora was supposed to be rolled into Thunderbird under the auspices of the Foundation). Who else does open source desktop mail clients for the Mac? If Thunderbird's lead developer's preferences end up winning out, there will be a for-profit corporate entity's desires to contend with - and while Scott's probably right that it's the most likely vehicle to succeed, it raises new questions for extension developers and potential contributors that were much easier to answer when Thunderbird was a Mozilla product. Not to mention that a mail client community has far more competition to deal with and generally has far less interesting innovations surrounding it; being Firefox's little brother was one of the motivating reasons to bank on Thunderbird. Now that it's being disowned from the family, do we stick around or jump ship?