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back to article Mozilla shoots down Thunderbird, hatches new release model

Mozilla has announced a new plan for the ongoing development of its Thunderbird email client that it says will provide for a stable product and continued opportunity for innovation That's all well and good, but the contents of a leaked internal Mozilla memo suggest that the full picture may be less rosy than it seems. The …

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WTF?

Mail without a mail client

Is taking a backup of what's in your webmail account or periodically transferring everything from the server to the computer that strange these days?

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Gmail, owned by Google and by definition so is your account.

Google decide on a whim, no more account, you lose and lose everything on there.

Thunderbird, it's all on your computer, it's all yours and so long as you back up it will always be yours.

After some of the fiascos with the cloud and hosting on someone else's servers, I'd rather have control over my own data.

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Re: Mail without a mail client

Off to Opera Mail for me I guess then.

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FAIL

Re: Mail without a mail client

Only fools (or foolish organizations) move to web based email and cloud storage. If you don't maintain control of your data, then someone else controls you. And remember, in the United States, under the Patriot Act, all of the data you have stored by a 3rd party is subject to secret subpoenas, where the party providing data services to you is forbidden to inform you that your data has been copied and turned over to the government.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mail without a mail client

Opera Mail is actually pretty nice.

If you like Firefox/Thunderbird, try the much better Seamonkey!

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kb
Go

Re: Mail without a mail client

Yep, afraid so. I run a little PC shop and i can tell you that home users NEVER have any kind of desktop mail app and business users treat outlook more as a PIM and meeting scheduler than they do a mail client anymore. heck I'm probably the geekiest one in my area and i simply use one webmail service to backup the other, most of us just don't have anything in our emails we care about keeping for any length of time.

I'm afraid for the vast majority it looks like desktop mail has gone the way of the floppy drive, where once it was everywhere now most simply don't have a use for it. With webmail I get get my email anywhere from multiple devices, its just nicer all around that dealing with downloading all the mail, a good 90% I probably don't want or will toss after reading once anyway.

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Boffin

The problem is...

Web-based email has been around for almost two decades (assuming Hotmail is the first, that's 16 years). These web-based mail have became the defacto mail for almost everyone. If it's not hotmail, it's GMail or Yahoo Mail.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "nothing worth keeping"

No, only a history of things you have bought on-line which you may some day need proof of purchase for because they break down and need warranty attention, for an insurance claim, or for tax purposes; a history of when you signed up for accounts on hundreds of different web sites, what names or e-mail addresses you used when registering and how to change or cancel them; proof of communications with official bodies or businesses, about important issues or contracts you have entered into, e.g. insurance policies.

There have been cases where I have been asked by friends, by work or even by police about something which happened a while back and only through correlating what I was doing in my e-mail was I able to have a clue what they were talking about.

Anything business-related must be kept for at least 6 years under UK law but even for personal stuff it might be quite useful to prove that you said or didn't say something at a particular time.

Finally how about e-mail addresses of people that are either important or you'd like to keep in touch with that you might not be able to find elsewhere?

I'd be quite upset if I lost my e-mails, as there is information of value to me in there - which is why I take a backup.

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The usual software problem

A company builds a product, in this case a very good mail client, and adds a features over the following years.

Then the usual software problem arrives: the product does what it was supposed to do, plus the aforementioned bells and whistles, so where does it go from there? Do you add more features, in which case it stops being a mail client and becomes yet another Swiss Army software product that does lots of things but none of them particularly well or spend the next few iterations doing cosmetic nonsense like Microsoft? When the biggest improvement to the next version is a new interface then you know things are getting a bit desperate.

It's not easy to innovate in email when most of the issues were solved years ago. Mozilla's current product problem is easy to solve as all the core functionality is there and anything else can be done with extensions.

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Pint

'Most issues solved years ago'

Posting from the pub, are we? Put your mobile away and get a round of drinks in, there's a good lad.

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Pint

Re: 'Most issues solved years ago'

Yes, indeed. An email client has really simple requirements. Compose and send, receive and read. I think these were taken care of years ago.

Mine's a Spitfire, thanks.

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Re: 'Most issues solved years ago'

To be honest, Thunderbird did come up with tabbed emails which was great. I don't think anybody else has done that with an email client, but I wish they would.

Of course it only actually works until you hit the reply button and it opens a new window. I take it that we won't be seeing that fixed now!

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Re: The usual software problem

A good question, which allows of a very simple and satisfactory answer.

When there are no more promising or popular enhancements to make, stop making enhancements. Instead, keep fixing bugs, and making sure the product is as secure and efficient as possible. That's less glamorous, but more important.

A few years ago Larry Ellison (no less) declared that the software industry was the most fashion-conscious, without exception, in the world. He specifically included women's clothes. Now does anyone think that is a good thing? Would we be happy if, say, avionics or bridge building were similarly fashion-conscious?

"Welcome to Flight X101... for the next 8 hours all our lives will be depending on the very latest release 33,481.48 of the fashionable Glork framework, first written last year. The current avionics have not been tested, of course, but we are all very excited".

Or we could put up with sad, boring old Ada - nearly 30 years old, and socially unacceptable, whose only virtue is that it does tend to keep us alive.

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Re: 'Most issues solved years ago'

It'll sound cliche, but Opera Mail also uses tabs.

I use Thunderbird at home and can't say that there's anything major that I think is missing and it's been stable for me for years. This sounds like a sensible solution, as long as they are committed to fixing any discovered security issues.

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Re: 'Most issues solved years ago'

Tabbed email browsing is perhaps the single most retarded "innovation" I've seen in email clients, ever (have you tried yahoo's tabbed webmail?.) I've frequently seen it cause confusion, frequently seen people with vast numbers of tabs open simultaneously without realising it, and can't think of a single occasion where it would be a good idea.

Want to have two messages open at once? Novel suggestion coming up... open each message in its own window! Hey presto - you can alt-tab between them to your heart's content or even do outrageously clever things like arranging them side by side or top and bottom on the same screen... put them on separate virtual desktops... the sky's the limit.

No, there's plenty of work needed on thunderbird, (getting resource usage down would be a start) but I can't think of many missing features...

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HCV
Happy

I see no problem here

I happen to prefer IMAP clients to web-based mail. Thunderbird has done pretty much exactly what I've wanted it to do for years now, so I'm very glad it's here. If it continues to exist and be maintained, I'm good.

Feeping creaturism for its own sake is not required.

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Re: I see no problem here

Totally agree.

The only feature I can see improving Thunderbird is to make it talk natively to Exchange and give it some ability to be managed by Group Policy to tempt the business users.

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Wait...

But the bits that are missing from Thunderbird are the same bits that have always been missing: no calendaring and scheduling facilities. And, yes, I do know about Lightning but that's a very poor relation to the sort of thing that's in (shudder) Outlook. To get widespread adoption of Thunderbird as a fully fledged replacement for anything that's useful in an office environment needs this sort of stuff to be included.

The entire open source calendaring landscape is mostly bare and what little there is doesn't work properly. Not just clients but servers too. It one area where there's nothing to touch the proprietary systems.

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Re: Wait...

Spot on Trevor.

I hate to say it, but for me too Outlook is the 'killer app' me that keeps me on Windows.

It also stops be agitating too vigourously for my employer to throw off the Microsoft Tax yoke: our organisation runs on Outlook calendaring and tasking, and without an alternative that is as well integrated in email, calendar, contacts and tasks as is LookOut, suggesting a change would be obviously and severely career limiting.

I hate to say it, but Outlook is actually amazingly adequate.

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@Trevor re. Lightning

As far as I can see (I may not have looked deep enough), Lightning only falls down on not being able to integrate with Google Tasks, if you want that. Given that there seem to be dozens of Android apps that integrate with google Tasks then I can't see why this should be so difficult.

I use Lightning as a 'laptop front end' to my Google Calendars since the Lightning UI is so much nicer that the Google web interface. Also, Lightning will interface with calendars on my home-based FTP server and a hosted FTP server that I use. All in all it's very flexible, except for the Task limitations.

I haven't tried the collaboration aspects so there may be some slip-ups that I haven't noticed.

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Re: Wait...

I see the problem as being a lack of server infrastructre. Having a client does not compete with MS.

We need direct integration with an always-on always connected server and we need more options. For personal use, that usually means google for mail and calendar. Kmail/Kontact/Kalendar does this relatively well. Mozilla could perhaps fork out for some decent aesthetics if they want to support that. We also need IM and voip - which often means google again and (diminishingly) skype, but really should be SIP.

What would be handy would be a VM with all this bundled - email, SIP/IM, calendar etc for those who don't want to use a public service or who simply want to run their own infrastructure. Some load-balancing options wouldn't go amiss either so that companies can just add more servers with the same image, perhaps organised by bonjour or linux-ha or whatever for larger companies. Companies also need some wiki-like system if you want to avoid sharepoint.

Then you need a client which integrates all these well. Outlook does it does look reasonably good, but outlook without exchange is probably not a great proposition.

Integration is key - people need a complete working system (or at least see a working one) before jumping ship from a large vendor.

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Re: Wait...

Spot on! Were it not for Outlook we would have abandoned Windows years ago ... the plain fact is that Outlook is on everyone's PC and via some collaboration software / shared folders etc (MDaemon/Outlook Connector) stores the entire company communications as customer records ... going back in around '96 I think. The mail store (IMAP) is about 16-20Gb all told.

Quite simply - if there is one program that defines Microsoft for us then it's Outlook. Sure, we have the Office programs too but nobody uses them ... Word is crap - but Outlook is fantastic!

I'd love to find another program with the same feature set as Outlook ... but there's nothing out there that works that well.

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Re: Wait...

"...our organisation runs on Outlook calendaring and tasking, and without an alternative that is as well integrated in email, calendar, contacts and tasks as is LookOut, suggesting a change would be obviously and severely career limiting".

Yes, very true. I seem to recall the last company that tried to launch a serious alternative to the Outlook complex was, what, about 16 years ago. Netscape or something like that.

I wonder what happened to them?

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Re: Wait...

"But the bits that are missing from Thunderbird are the same bits that have always been missing: no calendaring and scheduling facilities".

Of course I have the big advantage of being a one-man outfit, so I don't have to worry about finding which month I can get a given 34 people together for the same hour, or whether conference room G is available Wednesday morning.

But I find it quite ironic that my calendaring and scheduling are still done on Lotus Organizer 6. It does a good job, and I have no need to look for an alternative. (Although it does get a bit boring loading up all the floppies when I set up a new Windows system because the old one has reached Cruft Force 8).

http://www.drdobbs.com/state-of-decay/184405140

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Re: Wait...

For what it's worth... I've been busy implementing calendaring in OpenERP for some time now.

It is not as easy as it sounds. iCalendar is a pain to understand.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait...

"But the bits that are missing from Thunderbird are the same bits that have always been missing: no calendaring and scheduling facilities"

I would have never thought that calendaring and scheduling would be sine qua non features of an email application. I would have thought the requirements would be more like, say, composing, sending, receiving, and storing emails.

KISS and all that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait...

"Integration is key - people need a complete working system"

Says who? Lotus Notes man?

Actually, I agree with your statement, but please note that an integrated system does not equal a single monolithic application (such as Notes), not even a single vendor.

Personally, I would be quite happy with Mozilla adding a D-Bus interface to Thunderbird, then we can integrate with other applications, each of which does one task well.

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Unhappy

Re: Wait...

Well I DON'T want integration with calendars etc. I use an absolutely minimal email client that just works, day after day, year after year. For everything else there's copy and paste. I never have to wonder where something went, or where it came from or why 50 people have just received an email telling them that today is my girlfriend's birthday.

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Re: Wait...

Exactly Mike - the same reason Android's a continued FAIL for me.

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Re: Wait...

@P.Lee: I don't know much in this area but would the Zimbra appliance cover this, in part? http://www.turnkeylinux.org/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait...

I have a limited amount of sympathy with the "[xyz[ can't compete with Outlook" story.

I've seen lots of places where the IT people can't make Outlook calendaring, delivery receipts, etc, work across multiple servers on one site let alone multiple sites.

I've seen *one* place where the IT people had enough clue to make Outlook actually workable across mutliple servers (possibly even across multiple sites).

So yes, competing with a properly implemented Outlook can be tricky.

But from what I've seen, the majority of Outlook/Exchange setups are *not* done properly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait...

I've used Zimbra. I will try very hard never to do so again. That URL was badly chosen, more like turkey than turnkey...

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Re: never Zimbra

Could be worse - I've had the "pleasure" of dealing with Zimbra and Scalix. At least Zimbra isn't Scalix.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait...

keep up the good work on OpenERP. it seemed very promising when i installed it last time.

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Alien

as a long term Thunderbird user, my biggest complaints revolve around its plain text editor getting mixed up with rich text pastes, and what happens when you switch from rich to plain or back... it just doesn't handle that gracefully.

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Yes, that plain/HTML bug annoys me a lot.

Also the in-line spell checker 'forgetting' to check a whole paragraph, etc, if you just did an edit. Buggy since V2 I think. Finally on my annoyance list is the inability to run filters on the "global" inbox, meaning if you have several email accounts and use the unified folders thing (which I like) you need to define multiple filters.

Email is long established, just fix the bugs please! Oh and give us back coloured button text - that black text only crap is not so good for quick recognition.

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Can't do much about the bugs, but coloured icons...

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/noglass/

Also removes the glass effect (which is a bonus for me, but I guess if you like the effect...)

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Re: Can't do much about the bugs, but coloured icons...

I actually do like a LITTLE of the glass effects, but I can't stand the extent to which they're used in Firefox with tabs on bottom or in Thunderbird in Vista/7. I found other themes such as Silvermel for Thunderbird to fix that a while back when setting it up on my mother's laptop.

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Holmes

About time

I wonder who at Mozilla had the stones to tell the boss that T-Bird was deader than fried chicken? I suspect that person now works elsewhere.

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So... let me get this straight...

They're basically going to just concentrate on stability and not loading up T'Bird with any more bells'n'whistles?

Huh, works for me.

And no, I'm not about to shift all my email communications over to Web-based services. I have a couple of backup accounts on Gmail for those rare times when my own domains' email servers have problems, but actually use Web mail as my main email? Not a chance in hell.

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Re: So... let me get this straight...

The worrying thing is that "maintenance only" phase probably means a slow death spiral - where eventually you will only be able to download from ancient archive pages...and eventually stuff will stop working because of OS-infrastructure/tech type changes....

Ah well, maybe the "community" will pick things up. You never know.

But yeah, web-only? The thought makes me sad inside.

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Anonymous Coward

So where are the $300 million Google puts in, tax free, per year going to?

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Overlap...

As one of a (small?) overlap between Gmail and Thunderbird, I find this annoying:

Thunderbird may claim more than 20 million users, but Gmail alone boasts 425 million active users worldwide

Yes, true. And hotmail has how many users? And myspace has how many users? Can we get past some kind of signup metric, because it isn't exactly useful, especially for legacy services, to looking at active user numbers?

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Re: Overlap...

Very true.

I have about 3 Gmail accounts for myself and about 20-30 created for various projects I use. I never log onto Gmail for any of these. Guess what? I access them through Thunderbird.

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Re: Overlap...

I agree - I have a GMail account and a Hotmail account... I use neither for email. In fact, 90% of email that goes into them is so obviously spam I'm surprised it gets in there in the first place.

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tabbed birds?

I dumped thunderbird when the tabbed crap started to appear without any way to get rid of all the crap. Sure; you could change stuff in the registry and such but that would hide /certain/ behaviour but not get rid of it entirely.

TO me those tabs proof that some people should really reconsider what they're doing it all for. I moved to SeaMonkey and used it for a long time for both browsing and email. Guess what?

Only half a year later did I suddenly discover that SeaMonkey supported tabbed e-mail too. Only because I got curious and wondered "what would happen if I control-double click here?".

Thunderbird (right after the upgrade from the "clean" version) revealed this monstrosity within 2 minutes after starting up the program.

IMO that's your real problem right there.

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Re: tabbed birds?

Im using Thunderbird 12 on Linux so it maybe different than under Windows but you can turn off tabbed emails if you don't like it as i have on my Tbird.

Preferences > Advanced > Reading & Display > Open new messages in: New tab, New Window, Existing Window (which every you prefer)

When they claim Thunderbird has 20 million users I am assuming thats the number of downloads from the Mozilla website? It may well have more than that as it comes pre-installed in a lot of Linux distro's so those installs wouldn't have been counted.

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Linux

Where does this leave SeaMonkey - Re: tabbed birds?

Glad someone mentioned SeaMonkey.

Perhaps their e-mail fixes will go back into TB?

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unfinished

It would have been nice to fix the decades old problems still in the bugzilla, mainly for the usenet filtering and blacklisting ideas.

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