It’s been an extremely sad week for Mozilla’s Thunderbird email client. We’ve seen the only two full-time developers announce that they will be leaving the organization at the end of this week. News of this started when Scott MacGregor, the lead Thunderbird engineer, said that October 12th will be his last day as an employee. David Bienvenu then followed up Scott’s announcement with his own.

This comes just a short while after Mozilla announced the creation of MailCo, a subsidiary created for Thunderbird with $3 million in seed funding. People had a lot of fears that the result would be disastrous, but Mozilla put up a FAQ’s site regarding the new subsidiary to help calm everyone down. They wanted to reassure us that everything was going to be alright, and ironically this was included in the FAQ’s:

How will the current Thunderbird developers be involved?
We expect the current developers (Scott MacGregor and David Bienvenu) to continue to be the module owners for Thunderbird and Mozilla mail codebases.

Do we have reason to be worried now? We don’t actually know the reason that Scott and David are leaving Mozilla so it’s possible that it has nothing to do with the subsidiary being established. David Ascher, the leader of the new MailCo, said:

Both Scott McGregor and David Bienvenu have posted that they are leaving Mozilla Corp.  My understanding from chats with them weeks ago (I hope I’m not divulging anything that I shouldn’t) is that they have decided to start a new venture.  They’ve worked on Thunderbird and its predecessors within Mozilla and Nestcape for a long time, and I can certainly understand their desire to do something different.

The bulk of the MailCo budget is expected to be spent on staff (as with all small software companies, and especially small open source software companies!), with most of that going to Thunderbird-focused staff for a while, I expect.  We’re recruiting experienced developers now to focus specifically on Thunderbird and more broadly on improving mail and communications in general.

The future of Thunderbird doesn’t seem all that bright anymore, but it is a little reassuring that the bulk of the MailCo budget will be spent on staff. They have $3 million to work with as of right now, which seems like a lot, but Thunderbird doesn’t really have its own revenue stream so that money will be gone in the blink of an eye. It might be a little early to make any judgements, but I don’t have a good feeling as to where this is headed. I really feel bad for Eudora who had just decided to make their popular mail app use Thunderbird as its base.

Source: Mozilla Links