Mozilla may develop instant-messaging software

The open-source organisation may add instant-messaging software to its stable of open-source applications

Mozilla Messaging, the newly launched subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation, is "interested" in developing instant-messaging software, according to the organisation's chief executive.

David Ascher (pictured), Mozilla Messaging's chief executive officer, told ZDNet.co.uk on Monday that his organisation may develop instant-messaging (IM) software and the means to integrate IM products into Thunderbird 3, Mozilla's next email client.

"There are open-source IM libraries we could integrate into a Mozilla IM client," said Ascher. "IM is an interesting technology. We're [also] thinking of integrating IM capabilities into email."

Any IM capabilities would be completely interoperable with Mozilla-developed and open-source IM clients, open-standard IM clients such as Google's, and proprietary IM clients such as AOL's, said Ascher.

"There's going to be user choice and ways to interoperate," said Ascher.

Ascher said he would also like to be able to search both email and instant-messaging archives through Thunderbird.

"We'd like Thunderbird to do searches across common archives and have a better focal point and search system," said Asher.

Mozilla Messaging, launched on Tuesday, plans to concentrate on developing Thunderbird for at least the next year, although Ascher said that "life has a habit of throwing wrenches into the best-laid plans".

During that time, the organisation plans to develop Thunderbird's email-search capabilities, as well as the Thunderbird calendar and task manager. Ascher said that he expected "a significant improvement to email search across email, calendar and contacts".

Mozilla Messaging is also looking to make "a variety of improvements" to Thunderbird's configuration, including being able to download attachments in a subsequent message while reading the previous message. For security reasons, only trusted attachments can currently be downloaded; this policy will continue.

Ascher does not plan to poach developers from Mozilla's Firefox web-browser project, but will welcome any who wish to work on Thunderbird.

"We're not taking resources from Firefox; we're broadening the scope of what Mozilla is about," said Ascher. "It will be a hybrid. People who have worked on Firefox may decide Thunderbird is for them. However, people who are attracted to Thunderbird may not want to work on Firefox, and vice versa, as they are not in the same space."

Individual contributors may be offered computer equipment, in line with current practices for contributors to Firefox, according to Ascher. The Mozilla Messaging project will allow different companies with different perspectives to become involved with Mozilla, he explained.

Companies who have expressed an interest in becoming involved include Sun. Ascher declined to say which other companies he was in discussions with but said he expected "interesting discussions in the next year" to inform Mozilla Messaging long-term planning.

"This is a new conversation around the future of email, starting with Thunderbird 3," said Ascher. "We encourage people to join the discussion."

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