Mozilla Weighs Options for Thunderbird

Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker suggested Thursday that its Thunderbird e-mail client be spun off, but is soliciting the opinions of users before making any final decision.

Baker said in her blog that Thunderbird is being "dwarfed by the enormous energy and community focused on the web, Firefox and the ecosystem around it." By spinning it off, she believes that the project would allow the application to thrive.

Firefox will be the Foundation's priority for the foreseeable future, meaning Thunderbird may not have the chance to flourish under the current company setup.

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"A separate organization focused on Thunderbird will both be able to move independently and will need to do so to deepen community and user involvement," Baker wrote. "We're not yet sure what this organization will look like. We've thought about a few different options."

The first option would be for Thunderbird to become a non-profit organization in and of itself, much like the Mozilla Foundation. The problem with this is that it would be the most complex move, and would likely in the short term hurt the project.

Another option would be to place Thunderbird as a subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation. This is much like the first option, but it would require less organizational structure due to the fact that the Mozilla foundation and board would still oversee the project.

"Thunderbird would continue to need to be balanced and prioritized with Mozilla's focus on delivering the web through Firefox, its ecosystem and the Open Web as the platform," Baker added. "The Thunderbird effort may therefore still end up with less focus and less flexibility."

A final option calls for the project to be released as a community project, much like SeaMonkey currently is. However, Baker said that still poses several problems on how to create the organizational structure to remain non-profit.

Some were upset that the Mozilla Foundation seemed to be leaving Thunderbird behind, but understood the focus on Firefox. "Sad to see the 110 focus on Firefox. But if that's what it takes to beat Internet Explorer then we got to make that decision," developer Henrik Gemal wrote.

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