Mozilla, Thunderbird, and the future of email

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There’s been a lot of discussion (much of it of the hand-wringing variety) of Mitchell Baker’s Email Call To Action blog post where she talks about Mozilla splitting off the development of the Thunderbird email client software to a new organization. In today’s follow-on post titled Thunderbird — Why Change Things? she clarifies that the desire to split T-bird off arises from the phenomenal success of Firefox making it impossible for Mozilla to concentrate efforts on both products.

That seems fair enough to me. Thunderbird is a very competent mail client, and we depend on it here at the UW as an attractive alternative to the mail programs that come bundled with Windows and Macs, not to mention separate mail programs like Outlook and Entourage. It does strike me that the same could be said of Firefox, as an alternative to IE and Safari – but it can certainly be said that Firefox continues to drive innovation in the browser space, where Thunderbird has not achieved the same status for email.

My real interest, however, was in the part of the Call To Action where Mitchell talked about taking on a broader mail initaitive:


We would also like to find contributors committed to creating and implementing a new vision of mail. We would like to have a roadmap that brings wild innovation, increasing richness and fundamental improvements to mail. And equally importantly, we would like to find people with relevant expertise who would join with Mozilla to make something happen.

It seems to me that with email crippled by the deluge of spam, the rise of social networking as ways for people to connect, the start of the mass adoption of really smart handheld connected devices, and the use of synchronous communications in addition to asynchronous, that there’s room for some radical rethinking of the tools we use to communicate, and I hope we can work with the Mozilla folks to imagine that future.

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3 thoughts on “Mozilla, Thunderbird, and the future of email”

  1. What I worry about is that divorcing Thunderbird from the Mozilla organization will starve it for the resources that are needed to keep it as a first-class application, resources that are copiously available to Mozilla.

    Personally I’m far from ready to bury email in a shallow grave by the side of the road and continue my journey, nor do I care to open my legs to a web service such as Gmail.

    The rationale offered for the split doesn’t ring true- you don’t see Microsoft casting off Windows so they can concentrate on Office or Google trimming away Maps so they can concentrate on search- other organizations set priorities and allocate staff to service needs; God help us if Mozilla can’t manage to do that for two products.

    As for the scourge of spam, it will follow us anywhere we go.

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  2. The best thing with thunderbird is it’s (V2.x) fantastic spam filter. I get about 60 mails a day, 50 of that are spam. And they are identified correct by thunderbird.
    The more invisible advantage is it’s superior (compared to outlook) thread handling. It doesn’t freeze when working.
    But the big innovation is missing – I agree.

    I think it may come from the community on the “plugin-way”, maybe it’s already there – but ahead of time. Most big inventions had to wait for their breakthrough (remember the light bulb).

    But I don’t think, that the big communication revolution will be brought to us by email. I think it will come somewhere from the television, game console or telephone sector. You can’t touch email!

    Like

  3. The best thing with thunderbird is it’s (V2.x) fantastic spam filter. I get about 60 mails a day, 50 of that are spam. And they are identified correct by thunderbird.
    The more invisible advantage is it’s superior (compared to outlook) thread handling. It doesn’t freeze when working.
    But the big innovation is missing – I agree.

    I think it may come from the community on the “plugin-way”, maybe it’s already there – but ahead of time. Most big inventions had to wait for their breakthrough (remember the light bulb).

    But I don’t think, that the big communication revolution will be brought to us by email. I think it will come somewhere from the television, game console or telephone sector. You can’t touch email!

    Like

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