The Mozilla Foundation this week announced that it plans to modernize the Thunderbird email client in 2019, and improve its performance, usability and appearance. In this way, it will add employees and seek out technology with modern email clients.
"We are starting the new year by hiring some new employees for the Thunderbird team," writes Thunderbird's corporate director Ryan Sipes. "Who will put us on as many as 14 full-time members of our staff. This opens up a world of opportunities for what we can achieve."
By mid-2017, the Mozilla moved the Thunderbird email client to the Mozilla Foundation and moved the project to a donation-based income model. This has apparently worked well: Sipes says the ability to hire new employees is due to a blow in donations.
And like Firefox, Mozilla's more famous product, Thunderbird is updated regularly. The Foundation celebrated the release of Thunderbird 60 in August, adding a new "Photon" appearance and development based on the Firefox user experience, a new logo and enhancements to attachments, calendars, and more. The organization is currently testing Thunderbird 65 in its Beta channel.
Despite this pace of change, Thunderbird remains a particular old-fashioned email client in ways that are obvious to users and internally. So, the Mozilla Foundation hopes to increase in 2019 and modernize this aging email client in the following ways:
Improved performance. Mozilla seeks to improve Thunderbird's "UI long-term and overall performance issues across the application" in the short term. And then it will look to exploit "new, faster technologies to rewrite parts of Thunderbird as well as work towards a multi-process Thunderbird" in the future.
Improved aesthetics. It is perhaps an understatement to say that Thunderbird is old-fashioned: It looks like an e-mail client designed in the 1990s, with a multi-page, folder-based user interface and strange, browser-based tab support. So Mozilla has worked with Ura Design on a number of UX initiatives, and it has created a UX team that will move the product in line with a detailed style guide that promises a more modern look.
Improved usability. Mozilla will improve the use of this old application in several ways, but the most interesting area may fall under the integration category. Here, Thunderbird is updated to integrate better with unique features of popular online services, such as Gmail and with the underlying client platform, to support original alerts.
If Thunderbird will ever evolve into a truly modern email client that we can generally recommend to others, it is unclear, but my early testing of the existing beta release was not positive. It's like going back in time and not the good type. But maybe 2019 will mark a turn for this product. And given the weak choice of third-party email clients, especially on Windows, it would be a welcome change.
Thunderbird is available for free on Windows, Mac and Linux, but you are welcome to donate to the cause if you also use the product.
Tagged with Mozilla, Thunderbird