Posts Tagged with “e-mail”

Email Call to Action

July 25th, 2007

Do you think email is important part of Internet life? Are you interested in seeing something interesting and exciting happen in the mail space? Believe that Thunderbird provides a much-needed option for open source email alternatives and want to see it get more attention on its own? Long to see something more innovative than Thunderbird in the mail space happen?

So does Mozilla.

Are you someone who could contribute to such an effort? Do you have expertise and a desire to be involved in an innovative mail effort and/or a focused Thunderbird effort? If so, Mozilla would like to hear from you.


Mozilla has been supporting Thunderbird as a product since the beginning of the Foundation. The result is a good, solid product that provides an open alternative for desktop mail. However, 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. We are convinced that our current focus — delivering the web, mostly through browsing and related services — is the correct priority. At the same time, the Thunderbird team is extremely dedicated and competent, and we all want to see them do as much as possible with Thunderbird.

We have concluded that we should find a new, separate organizational setting for Thunderbird; one that allows the Thunderbird community to determine its own destiny.

Mozilla is exploring the options for an organization specifically focused on serving Thunderbird users. A separate organization focused on Thunderbird will both be able to move independently and will need to do so to deepen community and user involvement. We’re not yet sure what this organization will look like. We’ve thought about a few different options. I’ve described them below. If you’ve got a different idea please let us know.

Option 1: 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. There is lots of overhead to create a new foundation, find good board members, recreate the administrative load. When we started the Mozilla Foundation Mitch Kapor, our-then business development lead and I spent a bunch of time on this work. The current Thunderbird developers don’t have this level of business assistance. If there is revenue that requires a subsidiary then the overhead goes up even further. There is serious concern that this will detract from serving Thunderbird users, since the core Thunderbird team is small and developer-focused.

Option 2: 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. Thunderbird would continue to need to be balanced and prioritized with Mozilla’s focus on delivering the web through Firefox, its ecosystem and the Open Web as the platform. The Thunderbird effort may therefore still end up with less focus and less flexibility.

Option 3: Thunderbird is released as a community project much like SeaMonkey, 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, it could be simpler and more effective than a Mozilla Foundation subsidiary. However, creating this as a non-profit would be extremely difficult. Running a services company as an independent taxable company is the simplest operational answer. We would need to figure out how such a company relates to the Thunderbird product itself. What’s the best way for such a company to release a product? How does that relate to the community project that stays within Mozilla?

We don’t know the best answer yet. And we don’t expect to without a broad public discussion and involvement, which we hope this message will trigger. Today someone suggested to me that perhaps there is another foundation that might be a good home for Thunderbird. I hadn’t thought of this; it’s a creative idea.

If you’ve got thoughts or — even better — want to get involved, please let us know. Some suggestions for making sure Mozilla is aware of your comments are at the end of this post.

Broader Mail Initiative

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.

If we can see a path to an innovative mail initiative in addition to supporting existing Thunderbird users, then we are interested in doing so. If we find the best way to improve mail is incremental development of Thunderbird as already planned, then we’ve learned something extremely valuable as well.

Mozilla has a range of resources — funds, code, etc. — that can be applied to this problem. We’re looking for people with expertise, vision and leadership capabilities. If you are such a person, or know of such people, please let us know.


If you’re interested in these topics, let us know. The web is great at distributed discussions, let’s see what we think about mail. I’ll moderate comments and trackbacks here quickly. If you want to make absolutely sure that Mozilla can find your thoughts easily, feel free to leave a pointer to them here. There’s also a page for each discussion on the Mozillla wiki, although they require you to log-in to edit. So if you have a Mozilla wiki account or are willing to create one, you can find these pages at the locations below. Go to the “Discussion” tab at the top to add your thoughts or pointers back to your posts.

Mail Initiative

Email Addresses, and the Mozilla Foundation

February 24th, 2005

A couple of weeks ago I wrote something about my belief that staff membership is different than employment with the Mozilla Foundation. Here’s a concrete example of questions that come up: email addresses. It almost sounds trivial when I write it. But email addresses are often a statement of identity or relationship and so they turn out not to be trivial I believe that membership in staff is not a decision that should be made by the Mozilla Foundation. And a hiring decision by the Mozilla Foundation should not automatically convey staff membership.

When we set up the Foundation a set of key contributors became employees. Some of these people were staff members (Asa, Myk, Leaf, Brendan, me) of long tenure. Others were key contributors who had previously been employed to contribute their work product to the Mozilla project but weren’t officially chartered to speak for the Mozilla project or guide its general policies — jst, dbaron, Ben Goodger, Scott Macgregor, Chris Hofmann. (If this sounds obtuse or too “inside” to be understandable, please take a look at the Mozilla Roles and Responsibilities doc which lays out the role of staff in our past incarnation.)

It’s pretty hard to argue that this latter group of folks haven’t been “speaking for the Mozilla project” or guiding policy or determining releases or doing the myriad of things that staff has historically been chartered to do. Even so, we didn’t have a policy for what staff meant vis-à-vis Mozilla Foundation staff. So we didn’t officially make these new people staff. That is, they are (still) not listed on the staff page. However, we did give them “” email addresses. These addresses have historically been limited to staff members. And in the real world, an email address that is in use everyday is probably a much clearer indicia than a listing on a web page most people never see and may think is outdated anyway.

As management goes, I’m not proud of this. It left key contributors in a state of limbo that would have best been avoided. However, I felt it was important for the health of the project to keep the idea that mozilla,org staff membership means something separate from employment status. Fortunately the people living in this limbo are dedicated primarily to the success of the project and were able to live with this. As I said, tolerance for ambiguity is a key value.

Then we began hiring a few more people. By this time I had realized that not having a process for determining staff membership meant that we really shouldn’t give out “” email addresses. Not just realized it, which wasn’t hard. But realized it enough to force implementation of it. So over the last year we’ve hired a set of people and asked them to continue to use their own email addresses. More precisely, I have declined to authorize more “” email addresses. (I would say refused, but we haven’t had a real fight about it. Maybe others would say refused.)

Again, I’m not proud of this. It’s definitely been awkward for the people involved. So we’re going to create email addresses for Mozilla Foundation employees. I’m not sure what they’ll be — perhaps. That’s awfully long so perhaps we’ll choose something shorter. Those of us with addresses will probably continue using them, just as current staff members employed elsewhere use their addresses.

I expect that these new addresses will remain in use after we figure out the relationship between and Mozilla Foundation staff. Maybe it will turn out I’m wrong, and we’ll end up realizing that there is no need for staff or no need to distinguish it from Mozilla Foundation employees. But we spent years learning how to build an organization and manage the project separate from an employment chain, and I don’t want to let that experience fade away by accident.

When we figure out exactly what the email addresses representing employment with the Mozilla Foundation will be we’ll say something about that, and hopefully get them implemented soon. And of course we’ll keep working on the question of what staff membership means — or could mean, or should mean — in the current era.

I remember when I joined the Mozilla project I was astonished at how much energy went into technical topics that didn’t seem so important to me. I’m embarrassed to admit this included such things as directory names. Now of course I understand their importance better. And judging from the attention I have paid to the topic of email addresses and organizational identity, I have come to fit right in!

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