back to article Mozilla lights fire under Thunderbird

Mozilla will step up the pace of on its Thunderbird mail and communications platform next year, to re-invigorate a "stagnant" email client scene. David Ascher, chief executive of Mozilla Messaging, told The Reg he hopes for a "couple" of releases of Thunderbird in 2010 and also in subsequent years. Speaking as Thunderbird 3.0 …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Google divorce?

    Is this a sign that things aren't as cosy between Mozilla and Google anymore? I thought that development raced ahead with Firebadger whilst Thunderchicken was left to fester because Mozilla's sugardaddy didn't like the idea of mail clients stealing the limelight from gMail.

    Then along came Chrome and then Chrome OS, so I can see Mozilla no longer being the favourite nephew and getting all the love. But that does mean they can start singing their own tune again, and start a proper email effort, this time properly incorporating Eudora.

    Also, Mozilla Corp are a for-profit company who pay their bosses fortunes. They're not going to put efforts into an email app for the love of it. They have some kind of business plan here - They think they can make millions from email clients. But how?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Implement dynamic key exchange, so that the first time you talk to someone who has a public key, all further exchanges are done encrypted using that key, all automatic. Oh, and *not* via a central server. Stick the public key in the message header, store any keys you receive, so they can't be changed without being noticed.

  3. djb321

    Archive function

    So, to make it more popular they're going to develop the archive function that's been requested by users since at least August 2001, rather than providing a series of kludgy add-ons and workarounds? Nope, thought not...

  4. Andrew Oakley

    After 8 years, still can't Print Selection

    Given that in eight years, Thunderbird still hasn't fixed basic functionality bugs such as the inability to "Print Selection" ( ) I wouldn't hold out much hope. It's an excellent traditional SMTP/POP3/IMAP client, but it needs to concentrate on finishing off the basic bugs which have been around for nearly a decade, before worrying about webmail and modern frippery.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They should have renamed Firebird Fireflash. Or left it sounding like a BSA rather than that shitty plane in that shitty film when Eastwood was still making shit for shitty Gung Ho morons. Anyway, the point is, I use Thunderbird on thumb drives, from which I'll only likely use one account, two or three at most, but on the home computer until they add the ability to import .iaf files I'm just not interested. I hoped he'd mention finally introducing that one, but I guess it'll never happen. Unless someone writes an extension to do it.

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick
      IT Angle

      Thunderbird/Christmas List

      All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth knocking Shakira's two front teeth, or whatever. Oh yea, and I'd like the Next Big Thing to be a data base ap for my desktop that would import and export Address Books; with the stuff I don't need but would like to know I have redacted; for mobile/thumb drive use. LDAP to LDAP is a version to version full employment for geeks forever scheme.

      Neither the teeth or the NBT project is looking too good right now, but one has to try <>.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I think you need to look at the source of 90% of Mozilla's funding. If Mozilla and Google did fall out then Mozilla would suddenly see their income slashed.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Microsoft Outlook 2007 already does everything I need and does a great job at it ;) nice try

  7. Uwe Dippel

    Wrap up the old bugs first

    Filed a bad bug on Thunderbird's IMAP implementation some years ago. I'd rather have one of those 60 fixing it before thinking about new stuff.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Too little, too late

    Maybe I'm not representative (I liked elm, for god's sake) but I always thought that t-bird was fat with cruft and really missed the point. I think it's too late now; the days of a separate email client for consumers are over. Remarkably, the two dominant web UIs -- hotmail and gmail -- are absolutely rubbsh still, mind. Gmail's interface when you have a coupla hundred email threads is like an explosion at at a newspaper factory.

  9. Bob H

    Fundamental changes

    I am testing the current 3.0 RC and it is Ok, but they seem to have concentrated on things that mattered years ago and are less of a concern now.

    I do want to search my inbox, but bulk free-text search becomes less relevant as my inbox contains >60,000 emails. I want classification, I want taxonomy and I want intelligent sorting. There is a Bayes Classifier plugin which vaguely works but I want the ability to use tagging much easier.

    The aggregated inbox was frankly a silly idea, it is utterly useless because I get so many emails they get jumbled up and confused. I turned that feature off immediately, as did my brother.

  10. g00se

    Stagnant protocol

    Maybe stagnation of the app is a reflection of the stagnation of the protocols. Perhaps they should be looking at implementing different ones and simultaneously asserting an alternative nexus of control to the Benign Empire?

    1. RISC OS


      ...if your brother turned it off it must be a really silly idea...

    2. Barry Mahon

      Thunderbored 3.0 RC2

      Yea, it's OK, but it still hellish slow to load and the 'write' function takes an age to wake up.... They were like that in 2.x n times. Why not deal with them??

      Bye, Barry

  11. Matthew 4

    The thing is..

    Outlook is actually pretty damn good.. unlike IE so what's a good reason to change?

  12. blackworx


    I don't care if it's an established term - anyone who uses that word when not talking in the mechanical sense sounds like a twat. Bloody beancounters.

  13. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Please replace Outlook please oh God Please!

    Given the number of people who are forced to use Outlook (and watch it crash daily) you'd think that there was a ready market for a replacement with real IMAP support and real security built into the bloody thing out of the box.

    but apparently not?

  14. John Tserkezis

    Stagnant? That's one way to call it.

    Another is dead in the water and going nowhere fast.

    In all honesty, talk is cheap, and this thing has been going nowhere for a LONG, LONG time.

    There are fixes and features to bring it up to a vaugly competitive point that have been outright ignored by developers for many years.

    Now, out of the blue they expect us to believe they want to throw money at it to actually improve it?

    Where they not at one stage considering tossing Thunderbird to someone else so they can concentrate on Firefox alone?

    But now they're keeping it and claiming they're going actally *improve* it?

    I don't know if there's going to be any breath-holding over this, but it's not going to be me.

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  16. jason 7

    Email Clients???

    Please people stop using them.

    Of if folks do please can the email client vendors make it dead easy to copy and transport all the settings, mail, folders, contacts etc. over to another machine. Simple lift and shift.

    Sorry by most export/import options are still woefull.

    Maybe even have the "keep email on server" boxed ticked as default?

  17. AndyMM
    Gates Horns

    Great news

    I use Thunderbird now instead of my beloved Forte Agent (I needed IMAP) but even something as old as Agent still looks very finished compared to Thunderbird.

    Good to hear that development is speeding up, it is (slowly) coming to be a decent Outlook replacement.

    And it stops me having to pay the MS tax and have a piece of software that tell me where I have to store the data.

    1. J 3
      Paris Hilton


      While Firefox is far from being a wonder of the software world, I must say your computer seems to be badly broken. Get someone who understands computers to take a look at it for you. Or upgrade from that 486 thing.

      I mean, my ancient 1.8 GHz, 1 GB RAM home machine starts Firefox in less than 10 seconds -- not great, but the machine is old as I said. Even faster if Firefox was started already before and is still in cache. My work computer, a much better 2.4 GHz 4 or 5 year old, starts it in about 2 seconds or so from cold.

      Oh, and in neither machine does it go above about 200 MB for typical browsing. But then again it might be the OS...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. JC 2

    They're Going To Dork It Up.

    Just watch and see, it will become a shiny low contrast mess of an interface with pop-out half transparent wasted space.

    I do agree it needs a better search interface or features though, but I wouldn't call that modernizing, I'd call that what any common sense would dictate for the past 10 years.

  19. Tzael

    We can only hope!

    I read the title of the article and my first thoughts were "Great! Finally, people will start to ditch that PITA mail software. My clients who use bundled mail software such as that which comes with OS X, Windows or MS Office rarely have mail problems, but the four clients who use Thunderbird all do so 'at the recommendation of their IT department' and are submitting support requests several times weekly for trivial mail problems usually relating to poor handling of the IMAP protocol by Thunderbird.

    Unfortunately Mozilla would rather flog a dead horse than put it out of its misery...

  20. Chronos Silver badge


    "Like Firefox, we will move to a more rapid release cycle - where we can provide incremental improvements"

    Sounds reasonable so far...

    "while leveraging the platform,"

    Ah, tl;dr or, alternatively, too full of weasel-words; didn't read. It's just another load of old marketing bollocks that nearly broke my bullshitometer. Drop all the Google crap and start talking like a human being, then perhaps I'll start listening again. Firefox and Thunderbird used to be no-nonsense applications that won on less bloat and more control. Now it seems Firefox is yet another data-gathering app for Google, Thunderbird has stagnated and Mozilla has lost its way.

    Let me know when the project is going to get back to its original goals and I don't have to build a custom version of your browser just to retain control. Otherwise I really couldn't care less.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Well I hope...

    ... that they don't bugger about with it too much unless it is for things that I would use.

    I actually like it quite a bit.

    Perhaps they should concentrate on the bugs both on Thunderbird and Lightning (which I use and is nice but is buggy as hell)

  22. Stuart Halliday

    Get imap working first folks

    It just seems to me that those of us who use IMAP are a forgotten bunch.

    I still can't search any part of an email to find that important one in amongst my 2 years worth of emails.

    POP3 users have no trouble however.

    Oh hum...

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Complete Waste of Time

    It's a pointless excersise. Their *beyond arrogant* refusal to natively support MS Exchange means that it'll never be anything more than a second rate email client. And no - IMAP on Exchange isn't always a possibility.

  24. A Bee

    For English Readers of A Certain Age

    When they get to Thunderbird 5, will it be resident in the Cloud?

    (Mine's the blue one with the sash.)

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      ...will it be resident in the Cloud....

      ....and will lonely John still be in exile there?

      1. Matt 33


        Ones suspects that, like John Tracey, Thunderbird has a personal hygiene problem...

        I'll get me coat....

        Incidentally the Thunderbirds analogy holds true throughout the versions

        Thunderbird 1: Fast but not much use

        Thunderbird2: Could do lots but not very fast

        Thunderbird3: Largely pointless but can go into sp....ok I'll shut up.

    2. g00se

      IMAP problems

      Switch to BT as your ISP Stuart - they don't support IMAP for non-business customers - problem solved ;-)

  25. BlueGreen

    alternative email client

    Never been happy with tbird; just installed it & very first thing it did wasn't what I expected. Bug report filed. sigh

    For normal pop browsing I really like this: <>. It's technically unsupported and it isn't totally bug-free but it's pretty good and too simple to be an way in for virii etc. Pure POP3, *very* simple, only every used it to browse stuff on the server (it can download mails but I've never used that facility).

    Used it for a long time, recommended.

  26. b4k4

    @lift and shift

    That's exactly why we use t-bird here. You can even lift and shift between platforms, I've done win-lin and win-mac, and of course win-win (of course because the OS gets so slow you have to re-do it). Just move the profile. Everything is in there.

  27. zenkaon

    What ubuntu have done

    One feature in the latest ubuntu I really like is that you can set your contacts to be stored in the ubuntu one cloud. This means that my 2 laptops and desktop have a synced contact list. Add an address to my contact list on 1 machine, and it's there for all machines!

    You need to use evolution as your email client, and that's fine with me, I don't see anything thunderbird can do that evolution cannot. Syncing my evolution calender to gCal was way easier than it is in thunderbird. Evolution is suppose to play well with MS exchange servers....but I have no experience with MS exchange servers so can't offer an informed opinion on this one.

  28. GrahamT
    Thumb Up

    I wouldn't change from Thunderbird

    unless there was something a lot better.

    I dual boot Linux and windows on my laptop, but with Thunderbird I can share the same inbox/calendar/contacts on both. I even managed to wean my very non-technical wife away from Outlook Express on to Thunderbird, because I was able to set up separate accounts and filters much more easily to separate her work and home accounts the way she wanted. Importing her contact list and email was trivial too.

    I don't use IMAP, so that is not an issue for me, and the SMTP/POP3 support is fine; The junk filter works as it should; filtering does what I want; I prefer separate inboxes for my several accounts, which are a mixture of web mail and trad POP3 servers.

    OK, I could do with a few more filter options and better Lightning integration, but it does what want without me having to do anything apart from open it.

  29. This post has been deleted by its author

  30. SynnerCal

    Nice to hear they're focussing on 'features'

    But funny how the three key features that users want get overlooked in favour of flashy GUI tweaks. These three features being:

    1. Stability - no good having whizzy features if the s/w falls over every 10 minutes;

    2. Speed - you want it when?!

    3. Ease of use - no good having the whizzy features if no-one can either find nor use them (yes I _am_ looking at you Office2007 development team!)

    I use TB2 (roll on the Thunderbird puns <grin>) and it suits me fine - it does what I want with my IMAP4 mail service; it launches quickly; falls over very seldom; and I can do what I need to without having to hunt through menus most of the time. But I read that TB3 is flashy and falls over a lot - definitely a retrograde step.

    That said, using Evolution on Linux makes me appreciate how good/usable Thunderbird is. So Mr Ascher - never mind trotting out a release every 3-6 months - just make sure that the code that hits the distribution servers is actually fit for purpose!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm still waiting for these guys..

    It uses a Firefox backend and extension format, and the actual messaging protocols like POP3/IMAP are all just extensions themselves. It's been ages coming but it looks its out of the starting blocks now:

  32. Matthew Anderson

    Thunderbirds are go!

    Let's be honest, Thunderbird is clunky and in no way offers the full email client functionality needed for business purposes. I have been using it for 2 years and am close to ditching it so unless they come up with some bloody good new features, such as a decent backup utility, then i'm not interested.

  33. John White

    Outlook needs a bomb under it

    "Microsoft Outlook 2007 already does everything I need and does a great job at it "


    Outlook (as implemented+in the NHS) is a POS. My calendar view is regularly borked with the only fix seemingly a new user profile (and lose all your settings).

    As for exporting contacts in a useful format (iCal;vCal anyone?) then is MS all the way - all yours info belong to us. Like IE; Outlook needs a good kicking - or better still competition (such as Thunderbird) to be a viable alternative. Outlook won't share easily portions of diary/email with anything else

    I use Kontact(Kmail/Korganiser) on my netbook and at least it'll connect (at the moment until MS alter Exchange again) to an exchange server. I know some people hate KDE but I found it better than Evolution for my needs. We need some more plugins for Kontact/Evolution; easy installer for Windows and then we'll have competition for Outlook.

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  35. M man

    Little things...

    "Maybe even have the "keep email on server" boxed ticked as default?"

    THIS SO ANNOYS ME, ive even tried one client that didnt allow me to change this untl AFTER it had started its first download.

    Also the option to tag an email as "magazine" so that when it recieves another like it it deletes/archives all old copys.

    there are so many emails I get that are only valid until the next one arrives.

    Outlook is much better than IE, they will have a much bigger job on thier hands.

    and outlooks major advantage is its tight intergration with exchange.

  36. Simon Day

    What is really needed.

    What is needed isn't fancy addons, skins, IM integration or all this nonsense.

    Its decent calendar integration with support for shared calendars using protocols that outlook users can work with - even if that means mozilla releasing plugins for outlook themselves.

    Until they get that Thunderbird will never make it in the small company environment, an area where it should excel.

  37. Dale Richards


    ...may well have stagnated because all business users have Outlook and all home users have Gmail.

    For Thunderbird to be a runaway success, it needs full Exchange integration (including calendars, and maybe even the Journal) and full Gmail integration (including the quirky "Labels" filing method). Then just add some funky ways to manage your work/home emails and calendars and you have a winner. Icing on the cake would be things like support for maildir and PST formats.

    By concentrating on add-on support, it's like they're saying, "Meh, can't be arsed to add any new features. Do it yourself."

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What mail client market?

    Does anybody still use a fat IMAP/POP3/SMTP client?

    The majority of people are surely either using huge fat "colaboration" clients a la Outlook, or webmail. As such the potential market for Thunderbird et al is probably tiny.

    I can't remember the last time I used such a client. The only thing I do is have Opera pointed at my mail server so it's downloading all my mail, but leaving it on the server. I never actually use the mail client side of the browser, it's just so I have a backup of all my mail.

  39. Mark Greenwood


    Also in Thunderbird 3 is the ability, borrowed from Apple, to aggregate special folders across accounts so you can have one inbox that sees all your other email inboxes.

    Erm, hang on. I have 3 mailboxes with my ISP. Therefore 3 inboxes. When I download my mail to my computer, all the mails appear in the same local inbox. With Thunderbird 2. And KMail, come to that. What is new about 'aggregate' thing then?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blunderbird not all bad

    I like Blunderbird.

    I have years of entries in the calendar (Lightning) and copies of my wife and kids calendars I can turn on or off to view clashes and arrange family stuff, and separate work and social calendars for myself which can all be overlaid.

    Email has not been archived (touched) for about 4 years now.

    Rules and junk mail just work - and it works way better than any version of Stoutlook I've ever used.

    If I tried any of the above things with Stoutlook it would screw up - the multiple calendars, the calendar entries going back years (the more calendar entries I have the slower outlook goes), and of course the large local data files.

    Thunderbird ain't anywhere near perfect - but it works pretty well, and unlike outlook it has never lost any data or required use of an inbox repair tool.

  41. Brian Scott

    Happily using IMAP with Thunderbird

    I've been running thunderbird for a few years now, mostly because their IMAP support is better than entourage or apple's mail. I use outlook at work because of an exchange server but find that its IMAP support is a bit clunky when I connect it up to other servers.

    Web based email always seems like the poor cousin of real email clients. Its something you do when you are forced to, not because you want to.

    On a command line my preference is for mutt.

    Thunderbird hangs occasionally (mostly when I sleep my laptop while its checking mail) but not so much that I care.

    I would happily move to a better email client if one existed. If that was Thunderbird 3 then good. If someone else gets their act together then they will get a convert.

    As the developers of mutt said "All mail clients suck. This one just sucks less."

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