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Is Mozilla an Open Source Project?

At the 2015 Community Leadership Summit, keynote speaker Henrik Ingo asked what he intended to be a trick question:

Everybody knows that Redhat is the largest open source company by revenue, with 1.5 billion dollars per year in revenue. What is the second largest open source company?

Community Leadership Summit 2015

Community Leadership Summit 2015

It took awhile before someone came up with the correct answer – Mozilla! Why is this a trick question? Because people don’t view Mozilla as an open source software company! Even in an open-source friendly crowd, people need to be reminded that Mozilla is open source, and not another Google or Apple. The “open source” brand is getting ever more powerful, with hot new technologies like OpenStack, Docker, and node.js adopting the foundation-owned open source model, while Mozilla seems to be drifting away from that image.

The main point of Henrik’s talk was that projects that are “open-source” while dominated by a single company show limited growth potential when compared to projects where there is an independent foundation without any single dominating company. Mozilla is an odd model, with a company that is dominated by a foundation (at least in theory). It seems though that these days, what has emerged is a foundation that is dominated by a company, exactly the model that Henrik claims limits growth. As that company gets more and more “professional” (acting like a company), it gets harder to perceive Mozilla to be anything other than another big tech company.

Something has changed at Mozilla, that I don’t really understand. Not that I have any inside knowledge (Thunderbird folks like me don’t get invited to large Mozilla gatherings any more), but is this really the brand image that Mozilla wants? I doubt it. Hopefully people smarter than me can figure out how to fix it, as there is still something about Mozilla that many of us love.

Fixing QuickText addon for Thunderbird

The popular QuickText addon has not been updated for Thunderbird 38 and no longer works. As a user of that addon, I wanted to make it work again. This post provides instructions on how to do that.

The addon has no license mentioned, and unfortunately that defaults to “all rights reserved”. That means that I cannot provide the modified source to download, but I can under “Fair Use” describe the needed changes, that you can do yourself. They are trivial (at least for my use case). I will describe the changes for the non-Pro version but presumably they are the […]

Thunderbird Summit in Toronto to Plan a Viable Future

On Wednesday, October 15 through Saturday, October 19, 2014, the Thunderbird core contributors (about 20 people in total) are gathering at the Mozilla offices in Toronto, Ontario for a key summit to plan a viable future for Thunderbird. The first two days are project work days, but on Friday, October 18 we will be meeting all day as a group to discuss how we can overcome various obstacles that threaten the continuing viability of Thunderbird as a project. This is an open Summit for all interested parties. Remote participation or viewing of Friday group sessions is possible, beginning at 9:30 […]

Thunderbird’s Future: the TL;DR Version

In the next few months I hope to do a series of blog posts that talk about Mozilla’s Thunderbird email client and its future. Here’s the TL;DR version (though still pretty long). These are my personal views, I have no authority to speak for Mozilla or for the Thunderbird project.

Current Status Thunderbird usage is growing, we have a strong core team, and expect to remain relevant to the internet for the foreseeable future. Thunderbird is mission critical to tens of millions of users. The last two “community-developed” Thunderbird releases, 24 and 31, while successful as stability releases, had few […]

Following Wikipedia, Thunderbird Could Raise $1,600,000 in annual donations

What will it take to keep Thunderbird stable and vibrant? Although there is a dedicated, hard-working team of volunteers trying hard to keep Thunderbird alive, there has been very little progress on improvements since Mozilla drastically reduced their funding. I’ve been an advocate for some time that Thunderbird needs income to fulfill its potential, and that the best way to generate that income would be to appeal directly to its users for donations.

One internet organization that has done this successfully has been Wikipedia. How much income could Thunderbird generate if they received the same income per user as Wikipedia? […]

The Thunderbird Tree is Green!

For the first time in a while, the Thunderbird build tree is all green. That means that all platforms are building, and passing all tests:

The Thunderbird build tree is green!

Many thanks to Joshua Cranmer for all of his hard work to make it so!

Real Men do Build Engineering (A Real Threat to Thunderbird)

When I was first getting involved in Thunderbird, I recall reading a post from early leader Scott MacGregor that puzzled me. When the project was essentially a two-person project, he said that the next person they needed was a build engineer. I had always thought of that as a backwater for people who couldn’t do real coding.

How my thinking has changed! As we look to the future of the Thunderbird project, it is clear that the main threat at the moment is losing control of the build process. These days, it takes a PhD candidate in computer science (Joshua […]

The proxy debate over paid addons

I recently received a review of my ExQuilla addon for Thunderbird with the glowing report “It works well, I’ll give you that. No more, no less”. Should be 5 stars, right? No, the addon got 2.

This is the proxy battle over whether there should be paid addons in the Mozilla ecosystem, fought by trashing the ratings of paid addons. The reviewer gave me 2 stars because he believes “Please find purchasers from paid email software, not in an open source software.” He also complained about my response to an earlier reviewer who gave ExQuilla one star because, even though […]

Mesquilla is releasing a Calendar EWS Provider addon compatible with ExQuilla

Recently we learned that the “Exchange 2007/2010/2013 Provider” addon is no longer being developed, and the final version did not fully support Thunderbird 24 and Exchange Server 2013 & Office365. While eventually we intend to fully integrate Calendar and Task support into ExQuilla, at the moment that support is incomplete and experimental, so many of our customers had relied on the now-abandoned addon. So as a convenience to our customers, we have forked and updated that addon to provide a version that works with current Thunderbird and Microsoft Exchange, as well as includes better compatibility with ExQuilla. We call this […]

ExQuilla as a Model for “Thunderbird Professional” aka SwanFox

About a year ago, when we on the Thunderbird team were having very active discussions about the future of Thunderbird after Mozilla’s drastic cutback in funding, Axel Grude and myself were minority voices promoting the importance of developing funding sources for Thunderbird if it were to prosper in the future. In contrast, the majority viewpoint, as I understand it, was some combination of 1) We don’t need funding, Thunderbird is fine the way it is, and eager volunteers will move things forward, and 2) Mozilla Messaging tried for years to develop funding and failed, so it is probably impossible to […]