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Welcome future Thunderbird Developer!

If your looking for documentation on getting started with Thunderbird development, you have reached your first checkpoint. The Thunderbird project is always looking for new developers that feel excited about open source technology and how it relates to e-mail. After reading the whole developer documentation you might be ready to pass the famous entry requirements. ;)

Unofficial documentation maintained by Bisi 12:50, 18 January 2008 (PST)

History of Thunderbird

Thunderbird originally started as project Minotaur in 2002 just after Phoenix has been started (which later became known as Firefox). The first official release was named Thunderbird 0.1 on July 28, 2003 and later became the second part of the replacement for the Mozilla Suite (the first part being of course Firefox). Version 1.0 of Thunderbird was released on December 7, 2004. Later that year Mozilla Foundation revealed plans to integrate calendar features into Thunderbird with project Lightning, which is still being developed and has not reached yet version 1.0. In January 2006 Mozilla Corporation released Thunderbird 1.5. Later that year Qualcomm announced that it will base all of their future versions of the free Eudora mail client on Thunderbird (the Penelope project). The last version of Thunderbird (2.0) was released on April 18, 2007. As of July 2007 there have been more than 50 milion downloads of Thunderbird since version 1.0.

Mozilla announced a new initiative to stimulate innovation in Internet mail and communications on September 17, 2007. Mozilla plans to develop Internet communications software based on the Thunderbird product, code and brand. The new initiative (currently known as "MailCo") also aims to nurture a robust developer ecosystem in order to drive improvements through open source and community innovation, in the tradition of the Firefox web browser. Therefore, David Ascher (former CTO and VP Engineering at Activestate) joined Mozilla to help establish the new company, which will act as a subsidiary of Mozilla Foundation.

MailCo and the future of Thunderbird

Project goals

The project goals until the creation of "MailCo" were to build a "best of breed" email product for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X by focusing on: privacy, spam, security and tools for organizing and managing user's e-mail. Every Thunderbird release has of course its subgoals or themes (e.g. Thunderbird 2 top level themes were Tools for Organizing and Managing E-mail, Be Informative and Help Fight Junk Mail).

With the creation of "MailCo", Mozilla has taken a new focus on Thunderbird and Internet communications. Mitchell Baker (CEO of Mozilla Corporation and Board member of the Mozilla Foundation) has written four main goals of the new company on her weblog:

  • Take care of Thunderbird users
  • Move Thunderbird forward to provide better, deeper email solutions
  • Create a better user experience for a range of Internet communications -- how does / should email work with IM, RSS, VoIP, SMS, site-specific email, etc?
  • Spark the types of community involvement and innovation that we've seen around web "browsing" and Firefox.

Primary developers

The Thunderbird project was until recently lead by two developers: David Bienvenu and Scott MacGregor (both are no longer employed by the Mozilla Corporation). They still own the Thunderbird module (among others), but are not involved in the recent creation of "MailCo" or in implementing any new Thunderbird features. Both of them remained in the community and are free to do any reviews or superreviews in all modules they own or act in as peers. However, they receive additional help by the so called peers, who have almost the same authority as owners. Currently the Thunderbird module has two peers (who are not employed by the Mozilla Corporation): Magnus Melin and Phil Ringnalda. Since Thunderbird shares a lot of the backend code with the SeaMonkey suite, there are also other peers that can handle reviews of backend code (e.g. Mark Banner for the address book implementation or Neil Rashbrook for XPFE and Mail/News). The list of owners and peers may change soon, because of the creation of "MailCo".

Primary Mail and Mail/News developers
David Bienvenu bienvenu@nventure.com
Scott MacGregor mscott@mozilla.org
Magnus Melin mkmelin+mozilla@iki.fi
Phil Ringnalda philringnalda@gmail.com
Primary Mail/News only developers
Ian Neal iann_bugzilla@blueyonder.co.uk
Mark Banner bugzilla@standard8.plus.com
Karsten Düsterloh mnyromyr@tprac.de
Neil Rashbrook neil@httl.net

Communication channels

There are many communication channels for developers in the Mozilla community. The most used channels are the newsgroup, forums and IRC. However, there are some specific rules in the community about what channel to choose in which occasion. The Thunderbird newsgroup is used for discussions about new features, project goals, future plans and developer support. The Thunderbird Builds forum on MozillaZine is used for discussions on nightly builds, bugs in new features and developer feedback. The Mozilla IRC Network is used for developer chat and things that require immediate action. Mozilla Developer Center is used for posting developer documentation, sample code, development policy and discussion about those topics. MozillaWiki is used for posting the project policy, strategy, planning documents and discussion about those topics. Blogs represent the author's view on the project and prove to be a more personal way of writing to the community. Of course discussions also happen in Bugzilla, but they should be kept to a minimum.

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