Mozilla has announced that it is ceasing future Mozilla-sponsored developments of Thunderbird, its open-source desktop-based e-mail client. This, however, does not mean that Thunderbird is about to close, contrary to what some might take this information to mean. Mozilla, in fact, will still provide future stability and security updates for Thunderbird via an Extended Support Release. Likewise, it will enable the Thunderbird community to continue innovations by providing avenues for their organization. Mozilla calls the strategy a release and governance model, and is currently soliciting suggestions on making the solution work for everyone. Those interested in taking part in the refinement of Thunderbird are invited to join a mailing list and discussion forums provided by Mozilla.
Mozilla has scheduled the release of the Thunderbird Extended Support Release on November 20, 2012. This will have the current features of the e-mail client. Every six weeks thereafter, Mozilla will be updating it with security and stability upgrades. To provide support, the company will still maintain a staff that will be assigned on Thunderbird.
At present, Mozilla estimates that there are over 20 million users of the e-mail client. This large volume has undoubtedly been part of their reason for not shutting down the service. However, the company’s priority as of now is the development of web- and mobile-based projects instead of a desktop-based service like Thunderbird.
On a side note, Mozilla concedes that the company had not been able to make Thunderbird an innovative platform backed by an active community. One small achievement, however, is how Thunderbird has been adapted into some local languages, and for this, Mozilla is grateful for localization communities.
Mozilla’s tactic regarding Thunderbird appears similar to what it had previously done on SeaMonkey. SeaMonkey was Mozilla’s Internet Suite, but it had eventually stopped developing this project. At present, SeaMonkey development continues thanks to a community of users and interested developers. Meanwhile, Mozilla gives the community a mechanism for developing it as well as for sharing the project to other users.