Thunderbird Update

[cross-posted from mozilla.governance]

Hi everyone,

Last December, we had a conversation in mozilla.governance about the future of Thunderbird, initiated by Mitchell. At the time, we said that we would move to separate Thunderbird from Firefox’s release engineering infrastructure. Since then, we have been reviewing the options for a clear path forward for Thunderbird with a view to ensure its long-term stability while providing it with the right independence. We have looked both at the technical dimension and the organizational aspects, and this message gives an update on where we are.

On the technical side, it has become clear over the past few years that Thunderbird and Firefox have diverging needs and that the fact that they share a common release engineering infrastructure puts a strain on both Thunderbird and Firefox’s developments. We came to the conclusion that we needed to disentangle them.

We’ve started the process of helping the Thunderbird Council chart a course forward for Thunderbird’s future technical direction, by posting a job specification for a technical architect. In the next weeks, we will assign the chosen person the mission to assess the situation holistically, provide advice to the Thunderbird leadership on how best to proceed and draft a plan to help separate the technology underpinning Thunderbird from the one supporting Firefox.

This means that Thunderbird will need an organization to support these new experiments. It will also need the legal ability to raise money to finance itself. Mozilla has put in place the ability for Thunderbird to take donations in the short term. But we need to decide where the best home is for the long term.

Therefore, we are today publishing a report authored by open source leader Simon Phipps that explores options for a future organizational home for Thunderbird. This can be discussed either here or on the tb-planning mailing list. This is the start of a conversation, not the end, and we hope the Thunderbird community will have a productive discussion about the best path.

We hope that, by mid-2016, the outcome of this process will be a clear path forward for Thunderbird, both on a technical and on an organizational level, towards a solution that ensures long-term stability.

Mark Surman has also posted a blog post with more about the origins of the transition process and the steps towards Thunderbird independence. I am assisting the Thunderbird project through this process and am also happy to answer questions.