The Mozilla Foundation announced today that it was moving the Thunderbird email client to a new subsidiary named the MZLA Technologies Corporation.
Mozilla said that Thunderbird will continue to remain free and open source, but by moving the project away from its foundation into a corporate entity they will be able to monetize the product and pay for its development easier than before.
Currently, Thunderbird is primarily being kept alive through charitable donations from the product's userbase.
"Moving to MZLA Technologies Corporation will not only allow the Thunderbird project more flexibility and agility, but will also allow us to explore offering our users products and services that were not possible under the Mozilla Foundation," said Philipp Kewisch, Mozilla Product Manager.
"The move will allow the project to collect revenue through partnerships and non-charitable donations, which in turn can be used to cover the costs of new products and services," Kewisch added.
The Firefox browser, Mozilla's primary product, is also managed in a similar manner, through a corporate entity named the Mozilla Corporation, a subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation.
Mozilla almost abandoned Thunderbird a few years back
Thunderbird getting its own corporate sub-entity under the Mozilla Foundation is a far cry from the project's past status.
The email client almost died in 2012. At the time, Mozilla announced that due to a lack of funding it was stopping development on new Thunderbird features, committing to providing only security updates moving forward.
Things hit rock bottom in December 2015 when the Mozilla Foundation announced plans to unload the project to a new entity.
In 2016, Mozilla even carried out an audit [PDF] of possible new Thunderbird homes, identifying the Software Freedom Conservancy (manager of Git, BusyBox, Samba, and Wine) and the Document Foundation (managers of the LibreOffice office suite) as possible landing spots.
However, the impeding doom of their favorite email client rallied the Thunderbird community. Donations flooded Mozilla throughout 2016 and 2017, and the foundation had a change of heart in May 2017, re-comitting to the project after seeing the community's willingness to provide financial support for the project.
"Ultimately, this move to MZLA Technologies Corporation allows the Thunderbird project to hire more easily, act more swiftly, and pursue ideas that were previously not possible," Kewisch said about Thunderbird's new corporate entity.
The project re-entered active development in 2017, and has received loads of new features, including a move to a new codebase.The current Thunderbird version is v68. It also recently announced it was adding built-in support for encrypted emails.