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Mozilla suspends development on email client Thunderbird

updated 10:30 pm EDT, Fri July 6, 2012

Program shifting to curated security releases only

Mozilla's Thunderbird email client has reached the end of active development, according to a blog post from Mozilla Foundation Chair Mitchell Baker earlier this week. Thunderbird is going to be split into two releases: Thunderbird ESR, which will be released in final form in November; and vanilla Thunderbird, which the Mozilla Foundation intends to be advanced by users of the product.

"We have come to the conclusion that continued innovation on Thunderbird is not the best use of our resources given our ambitious organizational goals. The most critical needs for the product are ongoing security and stability for our 20+ million users," Thunderbird Managing Director JB Piacentino wrote in a confidential letter obtained by TechCrunch.

"However, Thunderbird is one of the very few truly free and open-source multi-platform e-mail applications available today and we want to defend these values. We're not 'stopping' Thunderbird, but proposing we adapt the Thunderbird release and governance model in a way that allows both ongoing security and stability maintenance, as well as community-driven innovation and development for the product. This will mean an eventual shift in how we staff Thunderbird at Mozilla Corporation -- we are still working out details, but some people will likely end up on other Mozilla projects."

A new release and governance model was posted on the Mozilla wiki page on June 6. The model plans on keeping the two editions: The "extended support release" (ESR) version will be static, with the exception of security patches every six weeks, while the non-ESR version may be altered by the community. Module owners remain in charge of their modules, and will be allowed to evolve over time.

The Mozilla Foundation is entertaining discussion on the proposal on a moderated mailing list. The final details of the plan will be revealed in September 2012.

by MacNN Staff



  1. UmarOMC

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I kind of don't see the difference.

    I understand the reasoning, but why fork the releases?

  1. que_ball

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Thunderbird trademark

    As a fully open source product they could "kill" development and the software would still continue but it would have to use another name because the name Thunderbird is a trademark.

    Basically by doing a forked release they are allowing their trademark to continue to be used by a release that is not going to be under their direct supervision. They just wanted to be clear which version they are supervising and which one will be pushed outside their influence.

    They are killing their version but at least this way the name lives on so that people don't get totally confused when something with a totally different name replaces it in the future. (We would hope)

  1. JuanGuapo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    People are not downloading/using Thunderbird in droves like Firefox. Marketing problem? Sure. Thunderbird is a great alternative client but there is little reason to switch to using it over on OSX or Outlook/Live Mail on Windows for the lay person.

  1. dronkert

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Best Usenet (text) client

    for me. Hate to see it go the way of the dodo.

  1. facebook_Gail

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jul 2012



    Here we go again with Mozilla. You have fine products... ahem.. CAMINO, yet you discontinue support just when you should be supporting choice. I STILL use Camino and probably always will till it stops completely. Best browser ever made. When I need 1Password, I use Safari.. but it's the only time I leave Camino. I realize it takes money and indulgence to support legacy products (... ahem... Adobe Golive), but honestly... put some time into Camino. It's so worth it.

  1. CmdrGampu

    Joined: Dec 1969


    dying market segment

    Most non-techies are using free webmail nowadays and have no need for a mail client, just browsers. It will only get worse as many people migrate to mobile devices for most if not all of their online activities, so a mobile mail app will be the way to go.

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