Mozilla’s e-Mail Client Thunderbird 1.0 Launched

The Mozilla Foundation released the final version of Thunderbird 1.0, the standalone open source e-mail client application, which is available for public download.

The launch by the open source organization is quite different than the
worldwide
marketing blitz
surrounding Thunderbird’s kin, the Firefox 1.0 browser. But officials are hoping for the same amount of success.

This time around there are no launch parties, no donations for a
full-page advertisement in the New York Times.

“I think we’re going to keep it low-key. People are having their
Christmas
holiday and we’re still recovering from the Firefox parties,” said
Scott
MacGregor, Thunderbird lead engineer and project co-chair.

The Tuesday launch is the culmination of nearly two years’ work for
MacGregor and David Bienvenu, the other project co-chair. Both started
the
project in February 2003, after splitting off from work being done on
the
Mozilla Suite, a combination e-mail/newsgroup/IRC chat client and HTML
editor. Before that the two worked on the Netscape 4.x
Messenger e-mail client in the mid-1990s.

While the Mozilla Suite focused on many different areas, the
Thunderbird
project has the benefit of tunnel vision — the developers only had to worry
about one
thing, an e-mail client.

Like the Firefox Web browser, Thunderbird has picked security and
functionality as a measure of its success; in the case of security,
it’s
spam and viruses. The open source e-mail client uses the SpamBayes
Project,
(a Bayesian filter on SourceForge.net) as the
basis
for its spam-filtering technology; developers are also working on
specialized work around the technology.

MacGregor said while project members are looking to add enterprise
capabilities to the application, the e-mail client is geared toward
consumers — though there are a couple of companies testing Thunderbird
now,
he said.

In a side by side comparison, Thunderbird bears many similarities with
Outlook, with adjustable layout views, icon buttons and capabilities
like
searchable folders, message grouping (by date, subject, sender, etc.).
Users
can pipe in their RSS feeds from a folder or read Web mail from both
clients.

Also, like
Firefox, the Thunderbird project can tap the world of independent
developers
who want to create extensions to the base functionality of the e-mail
application. Currently, there are nine available extensions on the
Mozilla.org Web site.

Unlike Firefox, however, Thunderbird doesn’t have a likely competitive
target. Much of Firefox’s popularity — and uptake — in the worldwide
community has been at the expense of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer
(IE). IE
has been deluged with one security vulnerabilities recently, prompting security experts to warn
people against IE altogether.

There are a bevy of e-mail clients on the market, some proprietary,
some
free for use and some open source. But of the group, such as Eudora, Outlook (and Outlook
Express),
Netscape Messenger, Pine, Mutt — none has experienced the level of
attacks seen by IE to necessitate a switch to Thunderbird.

MacGregor, however, said the Mozilla name and Thunderbird’s features
could bring in new customers, over and above those already on board. Two days
after the release of a preview
version
of Thunderbird 1.0, the company had netted more than one
million
downloads for the preview version and Thunderbird .9.

“Thunderbird really just adds to the momentum of Firefox; it’s a really
complementary application,” he said. “While Firefox is geared for
the general audience, Thunderbird is really geared toward the power
user of e-mail. So, if you get five, six e-mails a day, you’re probably better off
with using Firefox for viewing your Web mail, but if you’re getting
hundreds
a day, then Thunderbird is the application for you.”

Thunderbird, however, is a cross-platform technology, running on
Windows
95/98/ME/2000/XP, Linux, Mac OS X, OS/2 and Solaris. But beating the
competition isn’t the end goal for Thunderbird developers, MacGregor
said.

“I think our goal was really just to offer a competitive offering and a
choice for users that meets the criteria for junk mail, privacy issues
and
making it easy to manage large volumes of e-mail,” he said. “We don’t
see
ourselves as competing with people; we just want to offer another
choice for
folks.”

News Around the Web