Tuesday Sep 18, 2007

The future of Thunderbird


It has been about two months since Mitchell Baker's Email Call to Action. There are lots of discussion about this in the Mozilla community, and the change for Thunderbird also gives some impact for the Solaris future delivery plan.

From the very beginning, people have got used to the situation that Firefox and Thunderbird belong to one organization(Mozilla Cooperation), share the same amount of resources/development platform and have the same security updates/release schedule. But the difference release date between Firefox 2.0 and Thunderbird 2.0 has reflected that the MoCo focuses more on Firefox. As Thunderbird/Lightning have been delivered into Solaris Nevada and they are part of the SXDE product, we also have some concerns for the future of Thunderbird:
1. Support model. Currently, Mozilla cooperation promises 6 months' security support for Firefox 2.0.0.x after Firefox 3.0 is released. How is the support model for Thunderbird?
2. Release schedule. If Firefox releases some security advisories in the future, will the Thunderbird organization(MailCo) also do some security update at the same time?

The talk with Scott MacGregor early this month was great. That gave me lots of confidence on the future of Thunderbird. Currently, only two full time developers from MoCo are working on Thunderbird: Scott MacGregor and David Bienvenu. It's hard to advance the users' Internet Mail and Communications experience with the limited resources. That's why the Thunderbird guys want to have some change, to find their own way to make TB better, to stimulate innovation. However, change always brings uncertainty. It takes time for people to accept the change.

The latest official post from MoCo answers the questions as well: Mozilla Launches Internet Mail and Communications Initiative. It's a good news that "Nothing will change for current Thunderbird users. Mozilla will continue to provide Thunderbird users with regular security and stability updates as it establishes its new initiative, and remains committed to the needs of Thunderbird users", and "Thunderbird will be able to evolve faster to user needs" in the long term.

See also David Ascher's blog for future plan of Thunderbird.

Although there are some differences between Firefox and Thunderbird: "The products are different, the userbase is different, the international aspects are different", one thing I believe is that they both stimulate openness and innovation and make the online life easier for the public users.

GoGoGo, Thunderbird!

Friday Mar 02, 2007

A better Firefox/Thunderbird download experience for Solaris users

Solaris users now are having BETTER Firefox/Thunderbird download experience on mozilla.com!

What does that mean? For the past days, Solaris users had to know about the exact places/links to download the Firefox/Thunderbird Solaris builds from Mozilla.com. When the builds were available on the site, the notification email with the links would be sent to some internal and external mail aliases.

As for now, the Solaris users can go to www.mozilla.com or getfirefox.com or Thunderbird download to have a try. Just click "Free Download" and it will bring you to the corresponding Solaris binary builds directly. Enjoy it, guys:-)

Another feature request is the automatic update for the builds. Let's take a look at the Linux situation first.

There are two different types of Linux binaries for Firefox and Thunderbird. One is supported by the Mozilla community, in the tar format, another is the bundled one with the Linux distros(Red Hat/Ubuntu...), and supported by different distros. The former has the automatic update functionality. That means if you get the tarball from the community, it will notify you about the latest update when it's available. If you're using the system bundled one on Linux, the distros will provide their own way to update, something like the system update manager.

We also have two different binaries(the bundled one and the contributed one) for FF/TB on Solaris(The blastwave isn't included here). They are both provided by the desktop browser team, no Mozilla community involved. Currently, the automatic update doesn't work with the Mozilla community update server. The update of the bundled one can be achieved by the Solaris update mechanism itself(Solaris patch or Solaris system upgrade). As for the contributed one, the users can only update it manually.

Then the question is can we get some help from the Mozilla community. And the Solaris contributed builds can enable the "Check for updates" mechanism to update automatically. Do we have other ways to update it?

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