In the next few months I hope to do a series of blog posts that talk about Mozilla’s Thunderbird email client and its future. Here’s the TL;DR version (though still pretty long). These are my personal views, I have no authority to speak for Mozilla or for the Thunderbird project.Current Status
- Thunderbird usage is growing, we have a strong core team, and expect to remain relevant to the internet for the foreseeable future. Thunderbird is mission critical to tens of millions of users.
- The last two “community-developed” Thunderbird releases, 24 and 31, while successful as stability releases, had few new features. The enormous effort required to maintain that stability left little time for feature development.
- Thunderbird is an important piece, under the Mozilla Manifesto, of maintaining an open internet. But it is not “The Web” and is outside of the current Mozilla Mission of “Our mission is to promote openness, innovation & opportunity on the Web.” Mozilla and the Thunderbird team need to better define the implications of that.
- Mozilla’s strategic focus on a “Web” that excludes Thunderbird has indirectly resulted in dis-empowerment of the Thunderbird team in a variety of ways. This is becoming an existential threat to the product that needs addressing.
- Thunderbird should be a full-featured desktop personal information management system, incorporating messaging, calendar, and contacts. We need to incorporate the calendaring component (Lightning) by default, and drastically improve contact management.
- We should be actively promoting open internet standards in messaging, calendaring, and contacts through product implementations as well as advocacy and standards development.
- Our product should continually adapt to changing internet usage patterns and issues, including messaging security challenges and mobile interoperability.
- We need to focus on the needs of our existing user base through increased reliability and performance, as well as adding long-requested features that are expected of a full-featured application.
- Three full-time developers are needed to ensure a stable core base, and allow forward progress on the minimum feature set expected of us.
- We cannot reasonably expect Firefox and MoCo to subsidize our operations, so we need to raise income independently, through donations directly from our users.
- We are proudly Mozillians and expect to remain under the Mozilla umbrella, but the current governance structure, reporting through a Web-focused corporate management, is dis-empowering and needs conversion to a community-focused model that is focused on the needs of Thunderbird users.
- We should ask MoFo to fund one person on the Thunderbird team to serve as an advocate for open messaging standards, contributing product code as well as participating publicly in standards development and discussions.
The Thunderbird team is currently planning to get together in Toronto in October 2014, and Mozilla staff are trying to plan an all-hands meeting sometimes soon. Let’s discussion the future in conjunction with those events, to make sure that in 2015 we have a sustainable plan for the future.
Back in March, we posted that we had started building nightly builds from mozilla-central/comm-central, but because the version of CentOS we had been using was too old, we were unable to continue providing Linux nightly builds. That has now changed and (as of today) we have both 32-bit and 64-bit Linux nightlies! Since this involved us installing a new operating system (CentOS 6.2) and tweaking some of the build configuration for Linux, please let us know if you see any issues! Additionally, some more up-to-date features that have been available in Mozilla Firefox for a while should now be available in Instantbird (e.g. dbus and pulse audio support) and even some minor bugs were fixed!
Sorry that this took so long, but go grab your updated copy now!
I am happy to announce that Lightning 3.3, a new major release, is out of the door. Here are a few release highlights:
- Various components have been made asynchronous, allowing for better perceived performance. This means less hanging when Lightning is busy.
- Improved invitation processing, as well as a few new features:
- Restrict sending invitations to newly added attendees
- Send one invitation email per attendee, not disclosing other attendees
- Consider default BCC and CC of configured email identity when sending invitations
- More actions when viewing invitations, e.g. tentative accept, accepting only occurrences.
- When accessing Google Calendar via CalDAV, the authentication dialog doesn’t constantly reappear.
There have also been a lot of changes in the backend that are not visible to the user. This includes better testing framework support, which will help avoid regressions in the future. A total of 103 bugs have been fixed since Lightning 2.6.
When installing or updating to Thunderbird 31, you should automatically receive the upgrade to Lightning 3.3. If something goes wrong, you can get the new versions here:
Should you be using Seamonkey, you will have to wait for the 2.28 release, which is postponed as per this thread.
If you encounter any major issues, please comment on this blog post. Support issues are handled on support.mozilla.org. Feature requests and bug reports can be made on bugzilla.mozilla.org in the product Calendar. Be sure to search for existing bugs before you file them.