Mozilla launches Mozilla Messaging unit; Can it fix email?

Mozilla launches Mozilla Messaging unit; Can it fix email?

Summary: Mozilla on Tuesday unveiled its Mozilla Messaging company--formerly MailCo--and outlined a few plans for Thunderbird 3, the open source email and communications suite.In a blog post, David Ascher, who joined Mozilla to lead Mozilla Messaging in September, said the company's goal is to help fix email--quite a lofty goal.


Mozilla on Tuesday unveiled its Mozilla Messaging company--formerly MailCo--and outlined a few plans for Thunderbird 3, the open source email and communications suite.

In a blog post, David Ascher, who joined Mozilla to lead Mozilla Messaging in September, said the company's goal is to help fix email--quite a lofty goal.

Ascher wrote:

As I've slowly internalized over the last few months, the notion that anyone can and should participate in helping fix whatever is broken is a key tenet of the Mozilla project. It has structural implications for how we build companies, and, I believe, it's a key advantage compared to all the other companies who are tackling the nest of issues that entangle internet communications.

We know we can't do it alone, and we're not even going to try. Indeed, rather than lay out a bold vision and convince people that we're going to solve all their problems, we see our primary role as that of facilitating collaborative approaches to problem solving and incremental progress, through a combination of leadership and facilitation work. This is an unusual approach, and it can be chaotic and slow. But it seems to have worked well for Firefox and the web, and I believe it can work well for Thunderbird and email.

Ascher said his plan is roughly define Thunderbird 3 with the following characteristics:

  • Integrated calendaring;
  • Better search;
  • Improved user interface;
  • And easier configuration.

A lot of these items will be discussed out in the open on blogs, mailing lists and forums, but the broader question is this: Can Thunderbird, which now has dedicated resources, become a hit like Firefox?

More importantly can an open source project like Mozilla Thunderbird really alter the course of email (Techmeme)? I wouldn't dismiss Mozilla Messaging out of hand, but it could face an uphill climb. Most of us just accept email for what it is--useful yet painful at the same time. Innovation doesn't come to mind when talking about email. Ascher correctly notes that the extensibility of the Thunderbird platform will be critical and it's key that Mozilla Messaging already starts with a Web stack.

Ascher continued:

It's important to keep an eye on larger trends. Email is more important than ever, and yet it's no longer the only game in town, or even the dominant one for younger generations or emerging economies. It is worthwhile considering what the right user experience could be for someone using multiple email addresses, multiple instant messaging systems, IRC, reading and writing on blogs, using VoIP, SMS, and the like. What parts of those interactions make sense to integrate, and where? I don't believe that stuffing all of those communication models inside of one application is the right answer. But the walled gardens that we're faced with today aren't the right answer either. There is room for innovation and progress here, and we need to facilitate it.

I agree completely. But to get folks on the Thunderbird bandwagon Mozilla Messaging will have to cook up a user interface--and other key features--that a doubtful user can't resist.

Topics: Browser, Collaboration, Software

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  • how about

    a better default SPAM filter? The "junk" mail feature of T-Bird currently isn't as user-friendly nor a trainable as free plug-ins that can be found for Outlook.
  • Windows live mail is my choice

    It is more nimble than thunderbird and has friendlier spam filter. Definitely an improvement over Vista's "Windows Mail".
    Thunderbird needs a "outlook express to windows live mail" type makeover or it will be left in the dust.
    • Too funny....

      Or maybe not. What a bunch of hot air. Are you kidding? Live Mail? Go fish.
      • Have you tried it?

        It is an excellent outlook express replacement.
        you can download it here
        • Um...OE is sooo 10 years ago!!

          And I'm no fan of Live either. Thanks for playing, M$. Bubbye!
  • RE: Mozilla launches Mozilla Messaging unit; Can it fix email?

    it's surprising that so many basic elements of a real messaging client like integrated calendaring don't already exist in thunderbird, but it's great that this is being acknowledged and focused on. starting without all that baggage might actually be a benefit as they look at next-generation integration ideas between the client and various web services. a couple more thoughts here:
  • The Speed of Light

    Has anyone installed Yahoo! [url=]Zimbra Desktop[/url] and taken it for a 'spin'?[1]

    Am running it on openSUSE 10.3 and it would appear that Zimbra is innovating for e-mail's sake for sure. Took 2 minutes to install, configure for a Gmail account.

    (Sync will take a while depending on how many emails you have to cache to the client.)

    I sincerely hope Mozilla (I am a huge Firefox fan) has BIG things in store for Thunderbird ([url=]Prism[/url] and the like) as technology advancements are moving along at the 'speed of light' with or without them!!


    [1] See Ryan Stewart's article on Zimbra [url=]here[/url]
    D T Schmitz

      I don't care how good it may be. If its from Yahoo its not for me. Yahoo's actions of turning over dissidents to the repressive Communist government in China were so reprehensible that I don't see how any real American could patronize them.
      • No Yahoo!

        I absolutely concur. More people should be paying attention, speaking out and taking action. Cheers to the lone voice that bothers to be heard.
      • Eddzpc, do you patronise the companies

        that turned over customer records to the repressive Bush/Cheney regime in the United States without a legal warrant - those companies for whom a spineless US Senate in collusion with the administration is attempting to ?preempt? the right of customers to receive compensation for these illegal acts ? Or perhaps actions of this type, which take place in the United States, do not make it over your event horizon, which is exclusively tuned to China ? Yahoo, if it is to operate in Country X must obey the laws of Country X, even if Yahoo - and you and I - don't like these laws, but a company operating in Country Y is [u]not[/u] compelled to accept government pressure to perform certain acts, if these acts are illegal under the laws of that country. If, nonetheless, it does, than its actions can indeed be described as ?reprehensible?....

  • RE: Mozilla launches Mozilla Messaging unit; Can it fix email?

    I would like to use Thunderbird now if it did not occasionally dump all its address book entries and hose up its own mailbox files. I made the mistake of trusting it to do the unthinkable these days. I wanted it to work without breaking.
    • T-bird has always worked fine for me

      I'm surprised to read your post. I never have any problems with Thunderbird and have been using it since it first came out.
    • Bad drive

      The only time I've seen anything like what you're talking about, it turned out to be a bad hard drive.
      Dr. John
  • Calendaring and interoperability

    It will be interesting to see what they do with calendaring going forward. While I think Lightning integration is a no-brainer, as it makes calandering much tighter with email similar to Outlook and Evolution, it's something some people don't need or use. It can be ignored, as most that use Outlook do when they don't need a function, but it is still there and uses resources.

    Also, Lightning was a Thunderbird plugin developed in parallel with Sunbird, which is the stand-alone calendar. Is this new focus going to mean the end of Sunbird, or will it still parallel the calendaring function of T3 and on?

    UI changes and configuration will be the key things that make or break it. While I have no problem with the current UI, I can see how it would be an issue as more things like IM, VOIP, notes, etc., are slipped in.

    As for configuration, it needs to work hand in hand with interoperability for use with various collaborative providers such as Exchange, IMail, Google, Notes, Groupware, and others. Whether this interoperability is built in (like Exchange in Outlook or Evolution) or as a plugin (like Imail's Workgroup plugin for Outlook), it needs to be there to penetrate the enterprise market. I saw this first hand at my last job, where I used Thunderbird/Lightning as my day-to-day email/calendar application, but still needed to pop into Outlook on occasion to view or update resources shared through the Ipswitch Imail suite and use the Imail IM client. It may be even worth collaborating with other Open-Source initiatives such as eGroupware, Open-Xchange, SugarCRM or vTiger to better leverage Thunderbird 3 and make it more attractive.
  • RE: Mozilla launches Mozilla Messaging unit; Can it fix email?

    I think that Thunderbird was a great product to begin with. The only thing it really lacked was an integrated calendar. My Thunderbird was stable for 3 years straight. My company forced me to use Outlook and I have daily problems with stability, mail server connections, and send/receive latency. These problems did not occur with Thunderbird using the same mail server.
  • Thunderbird is Fine by Me

    I don't need my e-mail fixed. I have been using Thunderbird for several years in a home setting, and it does everything that I need it to do. I have 20 to 30 folders where I store things that I may want to refer to in the future. It is easy to add or delete folders as my requirements change. I have never used Outlook or Outlook Express, even though they are likely good programs, they didn't seem to be as easy to use as Thunderbird. I hope that Mozilla doesn't try to do away with this program in their "Furor" to make Firefox the "end all application". I would imagine that most people who use Thunderbird are happy with things as they are right now.
  • RE: Mozilla launches Mozilla Messaging unit; Can it fix email?

    While I love Firefox, I am a reluctant Thunderbird user, having switched from Eudora when my ISP changed to an SSL protocol and there was no help from Qualcomm (it dropped Eudora).

    The most annoying aspect of Thunderbird is the lack of a help file! Sure, as open-source software it changes quickly but writing a help file that can be updated - and resides on my pc - is far better than the current situation. Need help? T-bird sends you to the Mozilla maze of online help pages with no index, no TOC, and a level of detail that boggles the layperson's mind.

    With Google's big bucks, can't the good folks at Moz make their client a little more user-friendly?
  • RE: Mozilla launches Mozilla Messaging unit; Can it fix email?

    when is it going to fix the email package it already has?
    thunderbird keeps loosing my profile. I've had to build batch file that brings it back from a backup.
  • RE: Mozilla launches....

    While I have been a FF user for a few years (I can't stand working with IE), I have used Outlook Express up until about 8 months ago, when I tried Thunderbird. I have not gone back to OE; nor do I plan to. I have not had any problems with TB; and I am looking forward to seeing what will end up in TB3. I only hope that it does not become [b]bloatware.[/b] If Mozilla's plans are to include all of these things (e.g. SMS, VOIP, IM, etc), they do so in such a way that if a user does not want (or need) a feature they do not have to install it. [b]Let the bloatfarm remain in Washington state.[/b]
    • Bloatware

      Like you, I can't stand working with IE, and have used Netscape, then Firefox for as long as I've used Pc's. The only time I use IE is if I have to go to Microsoft's site or a few others that do not work with Firefox. I have also used Firefox for the past 3 or so years since my Netscape mail program crashed. I've never had a problem with it. Hopefully FF3 will be released in at least two versions. One version would be a plain vanilla version that basically is just for e-mail. The second version could be the Gee Whiz version with all the bells and whistles included. That way, those of you that want all of the features can have them, while those of us that just need a simple e-mail can have it without having to dink with the program to remove all the items that we don't want, and that will get the bloat, for us, out.