Thunderbird hasn't been a nest of innovation for years now. Mozilla has had people working on it, but new features were added at a slow place. Then again, there wasn't much mode to add, Thunderbird is a desktop email app and accomplishes that job well. Anyone still using desktop email clients is probably more than satisfied with what's in there already.
Whether or not that's the thinking at Mozilla, Thunderbird is getting the axe, or, more specifically, it's being put on life support. Mozilla has announced that it will no longer be dedicating any resources (people) to the development of new features or improvements to the email client.
But it's not shutting down the project either, Thunderbird will continue to receive stability and security fixes for the foreseeable future. The project's fate is pretty much sealed at this point, but Mozilla won't hammer out the details until September.
The few people that Mozilla has working on Thunderbird will be moved to other projects at the organization. With its ambitious plans to put out a mobile operating system in the vein of Chrome OS, Mozilla needs all the talent it can get.
In a blog post, Mozilla Chair Mitchell Baker announced that Thunderbird is getting the back seat. While she's diplomatic about the whole thing, it's easy to read between the lines, Thunderbird is no longer a fit at Mozilla, an organization focused on the web and ways to make it better. It's not only because it's a desktop app, it's because email desktop clients in particular are a dying breed, to say the least.
"Once again we’ve been asking the question: is Thunderbird a likely source of innovation and of leadership in today’s Internet life? Or is Thunderbird already pretty much what its users want and mostly needs some on-going maintenance?," Baker wrote
. Have you ever seen more obviously rhetorical questions?
"Much of Mozilla’s leadership — including that of the Thunderbird team — has come to the conclusion that on-going stability is the most important thing, and that continued innovation in Thunderbird is not a priority for Mozilla’s product efforts," she added.
"As a result, the Thunderbird team has developed a plan that provides both stability for Thunderbird’s current state and allows the Thunderbird community to innovate if it chooses," she said.
The plan is to let the "community" continue to improve the software. But, given that the "community" hasn't done much in the past few years, there's little hope of Thunderbird becoming a Phoenix rather than a Dodo. The current plans for Thunderbird are detailed here