Mozilla defines new structure for Thunderbird

The open-source email client will find a new place within the Mozilla organisation, but its future remains uncertain

The Mozilla Foundation is set to establish a new organisational structure for Thunderbird, its open-source email and news client, to allow it to concentrate on its Firefox browser.

While the Mozilla Foundation's taxable subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation, is responsible only for Firefox and Thunderbird, investment and resource allocation in the Firefox browser division is markedly higher than for Thunderbird.

Three proposals were revealed by the Mozilla Corporation's chief executive, Mitchell Baker. The first proposal would introduce a new independent, not-for-profit framework to support Thunderbird. Through the second proposal, a completely new subsidiary would be formed. Alternatively, Thunderbird could be recast as a community project. Whichever route is finally taken, it is likely that Thunderbird will suffer from being sidelined in favour of Firefox.

Lead Thunderbird developer Scott MacGregor envisions the best possible outcome as one that will allow Thunderbird to retain use of the Mozilla Foundation's infrastructure, such as the CVS repository for version control and the Bugzilla bug-tracking tool.

Many keen members of the Mozilla community have seen this move as inevitable, because autonomy for non-Firefox projects has been a hot discussion point for several months.

The long-term health of Thunderbird will now depend on what resources the Foundation is willing to consider and whether it will provide active support for the project.