Thunderbird’s future: Web App, or LibreOffice?

Mozilla announced last month that it wants to get rid of Thunderbird, the desktop email client that shares code with Firefox.

The details were a bit sketchy at the time, but the gist was that Mozilla wants to take away the burden from its engineers and free Thunderbird engineers from having to spent time adjusting the email client based on changes made to Firefox’s core.

Mozilla wants to make sure that a standalone Thunderbird project is off to a good start, and to ensure that, it plans to provide financial support among other things.

While it is possible for the Thunderbird project to stand on its own feet, another possibility discussed was to make it part of an organization that would provide the Thunderbird development team with the required infrastructure as well as legal and financial backing.

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Decisions have not been made yet, but it appears that the Document Foundation, maintainers of the popular Office client LibreOffice, are a candidate.

thunderbird future

A wiki page on the official Document Foundation website entitled “Ideas for the integration of Thunderbird with LibreOffice” lists options, ideas and directions for a potential integration of Thunderbird with LibreOffice.

The LibreOffice team discussed options for integration a personal information manager in the Office suite, and options included transferring Thunderbird to “The Document Foundation” or to fork Thunderbird and integrate the fork into LibreOffice.

Two main implementation options exist if the decision is made to move Thunderbird under the umbrella of the Document Foundation:

  1. Make Thunderbird a program that is part of LibreOffice and ship it directly with the Office suite.
  2. Maintain a standalone version of the Thunderbird email client.

These options are not exclusive, and one possible outcome could be that both will happen. It is likely that part of Thunderbird’s userbase would migrate away from the client if Thunderbird would only be offered as part of LibreOffice and not as a standalone client as it is right now.

There are other possibilities, and one of them that is discussed openly right now is to turn Thunderbird into a Web App.

tl;dr Thunderbird over the next 3 years needs to convert to being a web
app that can run on any browser that supports ES6 Javascript and HTML5.
(web app does not imply cloud-based, only that the underlying platform
is js/html).

Two reasons are provided to go down the route. First, that there is no guarantee that the Mozilla platform will remain a general-purpose development environment to run non-browser software, and second, that Internet users are using a variety of platforms and that Thunderbird somehow has to account for that.

The Web App approach would certainly require more time and might not only affect functionality but will impact extensions and customization as well among other things. Then there is migration that needs to be taken care of.

Now You: Where do you see Thunderbird’s future?


Article Name

Thunderbird’s future: Web App, or LibreOffice?


Martin Brinkmann


A look at the future of the email client Thunderbird: integration in LibreOffice, or release as a Web App.

About Martin Brinkmann

Martin Brinkmann is a journalist from Germany who founded Ghacks Technology News Back in 2005. He is passionate about all things tech and knows the Internet and computers like the back of his hand. You can follow Martin on Facebook, Twitter or Google+

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