As you may have heard, there is currently a discussion on how and why Mozilla should have Thunderbird in a separate organisation. This discussion was initiated by Mitchell Baker (Mozilla's CEO) in a post she wrote, Email Call to Action.

It is a complex message. Mozilla is doing well financially, Firefox is more successful than in my wildest dreams, but we still think that Thunderbird would do better if put in a separate entity.

Mitchell has put together several posts on her blog to answer questions that the community may have. I've digested them below. Enjoy.

Is this discussion happening because Thunderbird does not bring revenue?

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

Is Google involved in this decision to have a discussion?

Google and Google products had nothing to do with this decision. We did not ask Google about Thunderbird product planning, Thunderbird revenue, gmail product planning or gmail revenue. We did not ask Google's opinion.

Why change things?

Each day the development team can work on Thunderbird, which serves its users well. Or they can work on Firefox, which affects a giant swath of the web industry, and serves a userbase that is at least an order of magnitude larger. In this setting it does not make sense for a development group to give Thunderbird equal focus. (...) this is not a good setting for Thunderbird to get sustained attention and focus. Hiring more people doesn't solve the problem. It doesn't change the equation for determining relative attention.

Are Thunderbird and Firefox that different? (see also my take on this)

The products are different, the userbase is different, the international aspects are different. (...) many consumers are moving away, have already moved away or may never use stand-alone desktop email. (...) This doesn't make mail unimportant. it does reduce the degree to which the same development organization can excel at both products.

Is it that Thunderbird does not fit into the Mission of the Mozilla Foundation?

The question is: How does the Mozilla Foundation best serve its mission? Where does it focus? How do we develop maximum participation in our software development and in improving the quality of Internet life?

I'd like to add something related to the size of the Thunderbird community and its user base. David Bienvenu describes a nice Developer and QA community that many Open-Source / Free-sofware projects would be jealous of. In terms of number of users, with probably more than 5 millions users, Thunderbird is very successful, being one of the leading consumer-facing FLOSS products. Also, I find that email is important. I use it all day long. I could not live without it[1]. But compared to Firefox, Thunderbird is very small. This is why I'd like to see Option 2 happen ("Create a new subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation for Thunderbird"). It would, in my opinion, enable Thunderbird to become more innovative and get all the attention it needs and deserves, as it gets outside Firefox' shadow.


[1] One can argue that I actually would live better without email, but that would mean that I don't have a job - or at least not this job - which is not really an option ;-)