Using Thunderbird as a web-browser

Recently I’ve build a very simple addon that will open links in the Thunderbird tabs (instead of the browser).

And the more I use it, the more I realize that I can finish most of my emails without leaving my Thunderbird. I’m now logged in many websites like Github and I can reply and close issues directly from Thunderbird.

So I’m wondering, why is Thunderbird not aiming to become a web-browser?

It can already do most of the things a web browser should.

And there is only few things I miss:

  • back / forward navigation with mouse Back / forward buttons
  • opening links in the web-sites with middle mouse button on new tab
  • Firefox Sync. integration so that I could import my passwords and to allow sending links to other devices
  • Firefox containers would be also nice to have
  • some adblocker - but I’m sure one of the existing would be easy to port

What do you think?

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Apart from a few limited cases, I wouldn’t open links in TB in the first place. I’d prefer to use Firefox which - as your question says - has far more features and is kept up to date - at the cost of a big development effort compared to TB. TB was once part of a combined browser and messaging program, to the disadvantage of both IMO.
TB should stick to being an email client. Or a messaging client if it must.

How does your addon differ from the existing ‘Browse in Tab’ BTW?

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Thunderbird is up to date :slight_smile: - the updates are released the same way as Firefox - every 4-6 weeks.
It’s based on Firefox ESR so I’m pretty sure most or all browser features are already there, just disabled.

I really I don’t see any significant development cost here, that’s why I’m asking :slight_smile:.

Regarding my humble addon (build in few hours), it doesn’t require access to whole PC :smiley:
Screenshot 2021-06-04 11.22.20

Screenshot 2021-06-04 11.31.04

Also it has a slightly different behavior for middle / double clicks.

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The ‘full unrestricted access’ is because it’s an old-style addon, converted as a ‘mail experiment’. Yours is a new-style Mail Extension.

Yes, I’m aware of that. It nicely demonstrates one of the biggest issue of the old addons architecture - the security.
Imagine if the author sels his addon to some third party and then new version is released and then BAM! Malware in your PC!

And this is not some “theoretical” scenario, this happened just recently with the Nano Defender!
And I can tell you I’m receving these great looking offers all the time :frowning:. It’s terrible.

Hi, I’m the BrowseInTab author.

There are many things that cannot be done solely with web extension apis. For example, saving and restoring all links in tabs on restart. Or creating a Firefox like url bar.

I’ve never received an offer to hijack any of my extensions, nor would such a malicious switch be remotely considered.

All code is publicly auditable. And it is not shipped minified or obfuscated, unlike this extension.

Please don’t take it personally, I was just pointing out (in general) the security issues that the old addons architecture suffers :slight_smile: . I know many addons cannot be ported to the web-extension because of the missing API.

Regarding those offers - they will not write you that they want to hijack your extension :smiley:, they will apply some “social engineering” to make you believe that they want to help you somehow.
For example I’ve received this today:

And a few weeks before:

And did you heard about NanoDefender? It was also an open source project but the author didn’t have enough time for it so he sold it and suddenly the released update was different than the one on the github.

And yes, my extension is not open source and it has minified code (not obfuscated, that’s forbidden for all extensions). But Mozilla has access to my source code.

No, of course not. And yes, the old addon overlay architecture, whose access to internal apis is now enabled with web extension experiments, does have a lot of power. But in the decades of such access for addons in Tb, can you point to one single documented incident of abuse?

I doubt any developer would be tricked; they might do it for money knowingly. In any event, the user base for almost all Tb extensions is so low that no one would bother to hijack them, realistically.

Even worse than NanoDefender was what happened to Stylish. It was promptly exposed, an alternative was created, and it’s now basically a failed attempt at a hijack.

Not sure why you would minify your extension. It just makes is a bit more annoying to analyze. I doubt there’s any trade secret or ip or such worth protecting, no offense. :wink:

Not really. I guess you are right, the Thunderbird is probably not that easy to “profit” compared to browser extensions.

Well, I’m not so sure about that. Do you know what “Cookie stuffing” is? Some fake adblockers were doing this and it was estimates to make "millions of USD monthly". So even if the addon is taken down in a few days, the stuffed cookie will work for the next XX days or months making crazy money!

I use the same build script for all my extensions and some of my extensions has years of work in them which I’m trying to monetize with “Pro” features. That’s why even “1 day” extensions of mine are minified.
I’m not proud of it though (considering how much open source I’m using every day…).
But I’m struggling to survive as full time extension developer (as you can imagine :slight_smile: ) so I’m afraid someone with “better marketing skills” will come to take the credit.