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Mozilla looking to cut Thunderbird adrift

Mozilla has revealed its intention to completely separate itself from the Thunderbird email client.

Thunderbird is a free open source email client that was established by Mozilla in 2004. What Firefox is to the web, Thunderbird was to be for email.

It didn’t pan out to be quite so successful, however. Back in 2012, Mozilla announced that it was dropping support for Thunderbird to just security updates, with continued development handed over to the community.

Now Mozilla appears to be looking to cut the final ties to its former email service. In a recent blog post, Mozilla Foundation executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker outlined the company’s thinking on the matter.

Mitchell states that the “competing demands” of Firefox and Thunderbird are “not good for either project.” Those engineers working on Thunderbird are forced to keep updating the email client according to Firefox’s web-driven changes. Conversely, Firefox engineers feel obliged to consider Thunderbird any time they look to make improvements.

“Neither project can focus wholeheartedly on what is best for it,” says Baker. “It’s clear to me that sooner or later paying a tax to support Thunderbird will not make sense as a policy for Mozilla.”

Baker’s conclusion is that Thunderbird “would thrive best by
separating itself from reliance on Mozilla development systems and in some cases, Mozilla technology.”

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Baker doesn’t know how this uncoupling will work just yet, and admits that the separation could take a lot of work and a level of expertise that the current Thunderbird team might not have right now.

For now, Baker makes the assurance that “people using Thunderbird will not see any change in the product they use.” But it seems as if a complete split from Mozilla is inevitable.

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