Mozilla Thunderbird Messaging – Is It Worth The Wait?

Five months after being first announced, Mozilla is now announcing the official formation of Mozilla Messaging. Back in September of 2007, Mozilla anecdotally referred to the new mail spin off effort as MailCo but now they’ve given it a name,,hurray.

The new announcement follows what was another ‘new’ Mozilla Thunderbird announcement just last month when Mozilla Messaging leader David Ascher posted a long diatribe on what Thunderbird 3 needs to do directionally to get on track.

So five months after they first announce the effort, Mozilla now announces a name and that they are ready to rock. Frankly I don’t understand why the effort didn’t start in full five months ago so that this week they could announce progress instead of just announcing a name and what they plan to do.

In a post from Mozilla Chief Wrangler Mitchell Baker, there might well be a hint of the same kind of action that I am talking about.

I am exceedingly eager to stop thinking so much about how to organize the Thunderbird mail effort and to start seeing all that energy go to improving our product. That day has come. We have the tools to make email much, much better. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating. And then join the Mozilla Messaging effort and help make interesting things happen.

I have a suggestion for you Mozilla : Less talk and more action. Instead of telling us what you are going to do to get in gear, just do it. Let’s see some nightly builds, finite timetables and milestones, you know the stuff we can sink our teeth into. Announcements about strategy and direction are all fine and nice, but there comes a point when actions speak far louder than words.

As it is, I am personally somewhat skeptical, but then again I am a bit biased here too. I was a Netscape Mail user for many many years. Then I shifted to the Mozilla Suite still using the same basic mail system (just under the Mozilla banner). In fact while other early adopters were switching to Firefox, I stuck with Mozilla just for mail.

Times do change though. Firefox became dramatically better than the Mozilla suite ever was. At the same time Thunderbird did not keep pace.

While there is nothing in the open source world that can hold a candle to Firefox, on the email side there is another. I speak of Zimbra (and yes I know it’s a Yahoo open source license, but it is basically Mozilla public with attribution). Zimbra on both the server and now the desktop offers one of the best email experiences around. If Thunderbird achieved the level of technical prowess of Zimbra then we’d be talking.

As it is the evolution of Thunderbird into something more is too much talk at this point, whether or not it amounts to more than that over time remains to be seen. Considering Mozilla’s track record to date with Firefox though, if the same energy and dedication is thrown behind messaging, we may yet see some really great things.


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