Mitchell Baker, Mozilla’s CEO, announced on her blog today that Thunderbird hasn’t been receiving the attention that it deserves. As a result they are looking at a number of options to let Thunderbird continue to grow and flourish, but I don’t like how all of this sounds. Take a look at this snippet from the post:
The Thunderbird effort is dwarfed by the enormous energy and community focused on the web, Firefox and the ecosystem around it. As a result, Mozilla doesn’t focus on Thunderbird as much as we do browsing and Firefox and we don’t expect this to change in the foreseeable future.
To "help" Thunderbird they are looking at three different options that will give the project the attention it deserves. Here’s what can happen with it:
- Create a new non-profit organization analogous to the Mozilla Foundation – a Thunderbird foundation. If it turns out Thunderbird generates a revenue model from the product as Firefox does, then a Thunderbird foundation could follow the Mozilla Foundation model and create a subsidiary.This model probably offers the maximum independence for Thunderbird. But it is also the most organizationally complex.
- Create a new subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation for Thunderbird. This has less overhead, although it still requires a new company that serves the mission of the Mozilla Foundation. In this case the Mozilla Foundation board and personnel would remain involved in Thunderbird. The Thunderbird effort may therefore still end up with less focus and less flexibility.
- Thunderbird is released as a community project much like SeaMonkey or Camino, and a small independent services and consulting company is formed by the Thunderbird developers to continue development and care for Thunderbird users. Many open source projects use this model.
So I’m not sure what this sounds like to you, but it almost sounds like they are wanting to get Thunderbird out of their hands so that they can focus solely on Firefox…because that’s where the money is at right now. As we reported earlier this year Mozilla had earned more than $52 million in 2005 while spending a frugal $8 million of that on expenses and salaries. I’m guessing that Mozilla only wants to focus on the projects that will make them money even though they have plenty put away for a rainy day.
The interesting part is that Mitchell goes on to say that they don’t want to forget about mail all together though:
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.
To me this sounds like two people breaking up because something better has come along, where they just say that they "need their space." So I’m not overly hopeful anymore that we’ll see true innovation coming out of Thunderbird anymore. I honestly see that as being disappointing news, but I guess Mozilla has to do what’s best for the Foundation.
Let me know if I’m taking this the wrong way, or whether you see this as "the end" of Thunderbird as well.