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Mozilla proposes splitting off Thunderbird email client

Mozilla wants to cut ties with the Thunderbird email client for good, according to Mozilla Foundation executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker. The non-profit organization responsible for the Firefox browser distanced itself from Thunderbird in 2012 after eight years of development by handing it off to a volunteer group and supporting it only with security updates. Now Baker, writing in a blog post, says Mozilla wants to separate Thunderbird so that it does not have to waste resources ensuring it can co-exist with other Mozilla software.

"I believe Thunderbird would thrive best by separating itself from reliance on Mozilla development systems and in some cases, Mozilla technology," Baker writes. "The current setting isn’t stable, and we should start actively looking into how we can transition in an orderly way to a future where Thunderbird and Firefox are un-coupled." It's unclear if Mozilla will make Thunderbird a distinct open-source project or if it will ask another company or software community to take charge of it. Baker stressed that Thunderbird users should not immediately see any change in the product, adding that the possibility is open to propose and implement some alternative strategy to jettisoning Thunderbird altogether.

"The current setting isn't stable."

Baker said the primary reasons for wanting to remove Thunderbird from the Mozilla community is its reliance on Firefox. "These competing demands are not good for either project. Engineers working on Thunderbird must focus on keeping up and adapting Firefox’s web-driven changes. Engineers working on Firefox and related projects end up considering the competing demands of Thunderbird, and/or wondering if and how much they should assist Thunderbird," she writes. "Neither project can focus wholeheartedly on what is best for it."