Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mozilla Messaging

If there is one Open Source success story that shines out like a star, it is Mozilla Firefox. Not only has this Open Source browser delivered the best in terms of browsing experience it has also convincingly destroyed the hegemony of Internet Explorer as the industry standard for browsing. But there is another Mozilla product that has missed the spotlight because of the success of Firefox and this product is Thunderbird – Mozilla’s email suite.

And now, the Mozilla foundation has announced the launch of Mozilla Messaging with aim of doing something new and radical with email.

But What?
That is the crucial question. What are they going to do with email? Are they fundamentally going to redefine how email works? Are they going to set up new protocols for email exchange? The newly launched website doesn’t really say. What it does is make some very vague claims about making email great. The only concrete thing that it gives us is that they are going to work on Thunderbird 3. But wait, they were going to do that anyway. We already have Thunderbird 2 and it is logical to assume that Thunderbird 3 will be on its way. So what new are they going to do? Again, no one knows.

Why No-one Knows about Thunderbird
The reason no one knows about Thunderbird, despite it sharing the same design philosophy, being around for the same amount of time, and even sharing the same codebase as Firefox is because Thunderbird is just an email /client/. That too, desktop based. Obviously its user base is limited. I used Thunderbird regularly in college because my institute provided me with IMAP email service. But now that I’m a free bird, I have to rely on web based email for most of my needs. I do have an office email service but they use Microsoft’s Exchange Server and hence gave me Outlook preconfigured on my machine. Don’t know if Thunderbird can interact with Exchange Server or not, by why should I take the trouble.

Outlook is Much More Popular
I won’t say better. It is just popular. Mostly because of the early bugs that caused huge email virus scares. But that gave Outlook publicity. If you ask anyone what software they can use to read mail, they’ll say Outlook. Only geeks like me would say Thunderbird.

There is a huge market out there for Thunderbird still untapped. If they do manage to do those revolutionary things that they are claiming to do, they might actually turn the tables in the email market too.

But What?
That is the question that I keep coming back to. What are they going to do? With Mozilla foundations’ terrific track record, I’d expect them to do something terrific. I would love it if they redefined email as we know it. You know, provide something like ‘unsend’ which brings back my email if the recipient hasn’t read it yet. :)

What they’ll do, only future will tell.


  1. Dude, trust me.. I have used both Outlook and Thunderbird.. and Thunderbird sucks real bad...

  2. i have used thunderbird.. it was pretty cool.. delivered what you needed..