Thunderbird — Revenue

July 30th, 2007

Some people have wondered if revenue is the reason we’re looking at making some changes in our approach to Thunderbird. The answer is no. No, no, no. The reasons for looking at a change are articulated in the last 5 or 6 posts:

  • The impact of browsing and the Web, as delivered through Firefox, dwarfs Thunderbird
  • Thunderbird is a different enough product and audience that the focus on browsing and the web doesn’t automatically bring Thunderbird what it needs
  • Thunderbird — both its strengths and its weaknesses — are overshadowed by the giant footprint of Firefox.

These issues would concern us whether or not Thunderbird generates revenue. Mozilla is not aimed at maximizing revenue. And Firefox revenue is funding a range of activities beyond Firefox, from infrastructure to Thunderbird employees, to documentation for web services.

Once we figure out what kind of organization makes sense then we can look at what funds it would need. Then we can figure out what combination of money from Firefox and what from Thunderbird activities would make sense. We don’t plan to leave Thunderbird high and dry without funds.

I know from previous comments that some people will never believe this. But repeating myself won’t change that, so I’ll stop here.

19 comments for “Thunderbird — Revenue”

  1. 1

    Eddy Nigg said on July 31st, 2007 at 1:15 am:

    Can you explain to me why there are more than rumors that the lead developers got fired? Wouldn’t it be better to first find the best organizational change (if any), then allocate the funds needed for – it based on a new road map and declared goals – and perhaps only then move the developers along?

    It’s none of my business who MoCo employs, but since this is a public discussion initiated by yourself, I feel free to ask since it greatly disturbs me!

  2. 2

    Mitchell Baker said on July 31st, 2007 at 3:09 am:


    There is no basis at all for any rumors about thunderbird developers being fired. No truth at all. As to explaining why, I guess the answer is that rumors are easy to start.

    There is no truth in any such rumor.


  3. 3

    Eddy Nigg said on July 31st, 2007 at 4:57 am:

    Thanks Mitchell! I’ll refer anybody to this post concerning that!

  4. 4

    Bruno said on July 31st, 2007 at 7:01 am:

    The sad thing is that we can not trust their arguments…

    Nobody can really trust that is a question of “organization”…

    And everybody knows that if TB stop being part of mozilla organization will have no chances to grown in the enterprise…

    I am really upset.

    Hello Safari! Jobs?

  5. 5

    Nick said on July 31st, 2007 at 11:40 am:

    “will have no chances to grown in the enterprise…”

    It won’t anyway. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that home users want webmail. However, that doesn’t mean that business users want mail clients. They don’t: they want PIMs.

    Personally, I prefer an MUA that is just an MUA–no calendar, no tasks, no NNTP, no RSS. But that’s not what business is after. So I’m not sure where Thunderbird fits in here.

    Those who want an alternative to Outlook can already look to Ximian/Novell Evolution. In some ways Thunderbird sucks even as an email client. Look at that appallingly underpowered address book, for example–no import/export of vCards, no storage of images, no synching with a portable device. It would take *years* and a lot of money for Thunderbird to become not just a good MUA but a full-blown PIM. And what’s the point when Evolution is already three-quarters of the way there?

  6. 6

    Alaric said on July 31st, 2007 at 7:08 pm:

    I personally don’t want an alternative to Outlook, I want something substantially more secure.

    Thunderbird has several very nice features that other clients don’t have. I think it fits nicely in a niche market. For Example, I don’t like having to deal with different clients on different platforms, I like having TB on my windows machine AND my linux machine. It’s nice to have a client that isn’t web-based, so I can use my smartcard. I don’t like email clients that support VBScript in emails, because it’s a huge security hole. Tweaking allows me to turn off Javascript, again very nice and something web-based clients suck at.

    I would prefer to see Thunderbird be geared more towards people who are concerned with security, (something to compete with “The Bat!”) and expanded to work on my PDA/Phone.

    Although it would be nice to have a good phone book that would like me sync with my PDA.

  7. 7

    Asa Dotzler said on July 31st, 2007 at 8:44 pm:

    Eddy, where is this rumor spreading?

  8. 8

    Nelson said on August 1st, 2007 at 12:23 am:

    I gather from your “Email Call to Action” post that if Thunderbird doesn’t find a new home, eventually the clock will run out, and Mozilla will discontinue its funding of Thunderbird, with or without that new home.

    Any idea when that might happen?
    Is there a schedule for the end of Mozilla’s funding of Thunderbird?

  9. 9

    Eddy Nigg said on August 1st, 2007 at 2:13 am:

    Here and there 😉

    I got alarmed once I heard about it, since it wouldn’t have a personal impact for this two devoted developers, but also for the TB project as a whole. I’m glad about the answer we received from Mitchell.

    Personally I’m answering the “Call for Action” and currently joined forces on the TB mailing list. Right now we are gathering lots of information from the various postings, comments and ideas in order to get a better view about a vision and possible road map for TB. I hope to compile a report of the findings, which might help to answer the many questions Mitchell asked the community, being it about organizational changes, vision, revenues and leadership to mention only a few. Hopefully this will contribute to make the right decision concerning TB…5 million users deserve it! And perhaps a bright future for TB!

  10. 10

    Baptiste said on August 1st, 2007 at 6:22 am:

    what is the point of Firefox having a big influence, if you fail to tackle the most important problem of web 2.0. That is: are users the owners of their data? IMAP is the best tool we have for that matter, as it allows users to choose their providers, backup and move their data as they wish. Dumping Thunderbird before you have a better replacement for IMAP is criminal. This is not just about email, this is about freedom and privacy on the Internet as a whole.

  11. 11

    Asa Dotzler said on August 1st, 2007 at 11:44 pm:

    Baptiste, your view of the activities that could impact user data on the web is pretty narrow. Are you saying that promoting IMAP is the the most effective thing Mozilla could do to help users have more complete and useful control over their data?

    – A

  12. 12

    Brian Donohue said on August 2nd, 2007 at 12:27 pm:

    I still don’t see this as an issue of “dumping” TB, and I think Mitchell has exploded the myth about geeks being downsized. The point about freedom and privacy is a bigger issue that goes beyond Mozilla or any other corporation: this has to be legislated, which is why I and others in the project have been meeting with members of Congress to urge them to make Neutrality a top-shelf priority for this Congress. An email client, no matter how well designed or coded or by who, will not give you freedom and privacy. Corporations, even great corporations like Mozilla, more frequently impede positive change than they promote it. Only individuals applying consistent pressure to government can ensure that democracy and democratic values flourish.

  13. 13

    Eddy Nigg said on August 2nd, 2007 at 6:39 pm:

    Asa, mail (and related activities) is perhaps the second most important desktop application! Not everybody is in love with webmail as you are.

    Now, Firefox gets downloaded 20 times more than Thunderbird, because it provides a real alternative to IE, whereas Thunderbird doesn’t (yet). If Thunderbird would have been a real competitor to the number one application (Outlook), perhaps the same would have happened with TB. Maybe this is a shortcoming of Mozilla (all of us), because it really could be what Firefox is today. Take it as a challenge! I think you are maybe reading the numbers wrong (from a different post of yours), because it might be easier and more convenient for you…so I’m glad to have the opportunity to present another point of view.

    Also take into consideration that Outlook is one of the main sources of income for Microsoft. I guess, that’s not because everybody is using webmail!? The enterprise is not ready for it and there might be good reasons why. And this is an opportunity for TB since I suspect that it is the most used application after Outlook for mail.

  14. 14

    Markus Fleck-Graffe said on August 4th, 2007 at 6:01 am:

    Maybe a change of perspective will help to make the options clearer: Try to think of Thunderbird as the #2 killer application for the Mozilla XUL framework (right after Firefox), and as the definite #1 add-on to Firefox.

    Seriously: who would want to get rid of the #2 application if most of the work on Firefox is acually work on the XUL framework, anyway? The Mozilla XUL framework is approximately “on par” with the current state of Microsoft’s latest-and-greatest “WPF” framework (XAML, Silverlight, etc.), and all “The Mozilla Corporation” is saying is that they don’t care, that their world still revolves around the 1990’s invention of the web browser, and that they are more than happy to leave the world of Internet application frameworks to the “closed source” world of Microsoft and Adobe? Please give me a break.

    Apart from that, judging from similar lonely decisions in the past, Mozilla Corp’s “strategic” plans will lead to a “community fork” of the non-Firefox applications sooner rather than later (cf., which may not be a bad thing in itself if it helps to stir more outside involvement, but those plans will also ensure that somebody else will get “all the fame” for re-discovering and leveraging the full potential of the underlying XUL framework. Ultimately, dumping Thunderbird may become the first step of a community fork of the whole framework.

    MozillaCorp shouldn’t believe that Firefox, even on Linux, will continue to be the only viable web browser; KHTML aka WebKit is a close follower, with some way to go, but much less legacy code to clean up. The only true advantage of Firefox is its extensibility “to the core” via the XUL framework.

  15. 15

    Asa Dotzler said on August 4th, 2007 at 1:25 pm:

    Eddy, I’m not in love with webmail. I’m just trying to point out that there is competition in the space for webmail and not all of it is designed to lock you in or put your data in someone else’s hands. Webmail means a lot more than just Gmail or Hotmail.

    – A

  16. 16

    Eddy Nigg said on August 5th, 2007 at 2:58 am:

    🙂 Correct! Also I’m not saying that webmail is bad, it’s just one of the options to handle mail. We seem to agree that communication (mail and related stuff) are an important part of our Internet activities. There are many different reasons why one want to use a desktop mail application and why to use web based applications, something which some tried to explain here. Therefore innovation and support of the leading Mozilla applications are important to all of us!

  17. 17

    sunnysardine said on August 5th, 2007 at 8:14 am:

    Has everything come to an end? What will happen to Thunderbird? After all those PR calling us to get involved, where is she directing us to? Is she directing us to somewhere (or nowhere)? She still didn’t claim her motive for the call in her blog. However, we shall see later.

  18. 18

    Baptiste said on August 6th, 2007 at 4:35 am:

    Asa: as I said in my post: don’t drop a working solution *before you have a better replacement*. And yes, such a replacement needs to include a simple and universal API for accessing data from all the providers, just like IMAP is. So that I can access my data at low level and treat it locally as I like with free software. The problem is: you don’t seem to have even just a clear plan. You suggest “off line mode” in Firefox can help; I don’t see how. From what I understand, “off line mode” is just a convenient way to deploy in-browser proprietary software. It may work around the practical consequences of losing control of your data. Which just encourages providers to take more and more control.

  19. 19

    Oscar Zamudio said on October 24th, 2007 at 6:02 pm:

    Well, Thunderbird sucks!, How can an e-mail client which is intended to replace other paid ones like Eudora (well, it was!) or Outlook, being almost impossible to migrate messages to TB in a proper way? I tried hard, and tried to convince my partners to migrate to TB. But, no way

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