Mozilla made a post yesterday on the Mozilla Thunderbird Blog. In the article, they layout a plan for Thunderbird’s migration off the Mozilla Corporation infrastructure. While the Mozilla Foundation will continue to serve as the legal and fiscal home for the project, its operational aspects will be independent.
At one point in my IT Pro career, I was frequently installing Thunderbird as an email client and as a result very familiar with the underlying structure to support the product. Since then the cloud has found its place and more places have moved to web-only clients or Microsoft Outlook for Exchange/Office 365 environments. It’s a little sad to see Thunderbird at this point but it is also nice to see that decisive action is being taken. Back in 2015, the original discussions of Thunderbird leaving the technical base shared with Firefox began.
A report from Simon Phipps, former president of the OSI concluded:
The Phipps report saw three viable choices for the Thunderbird Project’s future home: the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), The Document Foundation (TDF) and a new deal at the Mozilla Foundation. An independent “Thunderbird Foundation” alternative was not recommended as a first step but the report said it “may become appropriate in the future for Thunderbird to separate from its new host and become a full independent entity”.
Thunderbird is now collecting donations through the Mozilla Foundation to fund its future development. If the two do not get along or Thunderbird quickly moves to independence, either side may give the other 6 months notice of a separation.
The future will involve Thunderbird migrating away from the Gecko-base and as you can tell from the comments of the blog post, there are many things to still be decided and prioritized.
With the organizational question settled, we can focus on the technical challenges ahead. Thunderbird will remain a Gecko-based application at least in the midterm, but many of the technologies Thunderbird relies upon in that platform will one day no longer be supported. The long term plan is to migrate our code to web technologies, but this will take time, staff, and planning.
If you would like to donate to Thunderbird, you may do so at https://donate.mozilla.org/thunderbird/