Mozilla Thunderbird Email Client Sidelined

Future development of the open source email client will be cut back, as Mozilla concentrates on its browser and phone OS

Browser-maker the Mozilla Foundation is planning to cut back on development of the Thunderbird email client, as it looks to focus on its Firefox browser and the newly-announced Firefox OS, which is now appearing on prototype phones .

The open source email client has been a leading alternative to Microsoft’s Outlook for many years, but email clients are not currently an innovative area, as people move to email in the browser through services such as Google’s Gmail. Mozilla will be concentrating on security and stability for any current releases, foundation chair, Mitchell Backer explained in her blog over the weekend.

Thunderbird is go?

“Once again we’ve been asking the question:  is Thunderbird a likely source of innovation and of leadership in today’s Internet life?” Baker asked on her blog. ” Or is Thunderbird already pretty much what its users want and mostly needs some ongoing maintenance?”

The answer seems to be that users aren’t interested in new features on a product that already works the way they want it to, so Mozilla has come up with a new Release and Governance model, where any innovations will come from outside the Foundation, which will continue to provide an Extended Support Release for stability.

Although Mozilla Thunderbird has active developers, and an excellent community localising it to different languages, the product has not got a “growing, active contributor base”, said Baker.

“Most Thunderbird users seem happy with the basic email feature set,” she concluded.  “In parallel, we have seen the rising popularity of Web-based forms of communications representing email alternatives to a desktop solution.  Given this, focusing on stability for Thunderbird and driving innovation through other offerings seems a natural choice.”

By contrast, Mozilla’s proposal for a new mobile operating system, based on HTML5 and called Firefox OS, has met with a lot of excitement in the industry, with operators and handset makers signing up to give the new platform a try. They see it as a way to deliver smartphone functions on cheaper hardware, and to break a perceived over-dependence on Google’s Android.

Amongst TechWeeekEurope readers, a poll found that 70 percent would happily give the product a try, with only minorities saying they would prefer to stick to their current phont platform.

And meanwhile, Mozilla’s main project, the Firefox browser, is reported to be losing share to Google Chrome.

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