There Is No Need to Worry About Thunderbird

Maybe I’m just surprised by the response to people’s reaction to Thunderbird, but I think there’s a bunch of knee jerk reactions to the news that Thunderbird would be transitioning to a model of security and stability updates only. I think the headline is a bit extreme, the project doesn’t look like it’s going away. But people like Ben Kerensa want features. As it turns out, there’s no need to panic because email has been a SOLVED PROBLEM for going on 3 decades now. Don’t believe me?

Look familiar? It sure does, because when the goal is to fetch and send email, there’s really no place else to go. The problem is solved.

I’ve been using Thunderbird for ages, and I’ve never noticed any significant changes when it updates. So fine, slow/halt development if you want. It fetches my mail and oddly enough, that’s all I ever needed it for.

John Martins

When people ask me why I use gmail I usually tell them a bunch of my favorite features, like the built in contact and calendar integration; I like how I can respond to a mail via IM if the person is around and I have something quick to answer with. Usually the response is “You’re moving the goalposts, we’re talking strictly about a mail client here.”

Okay, I don’t want an email client then.

The problem with most local “email clients” is that’s all they’ll ever be. They won’t bother to be as integrated with my calendar/IM or remind me that we’re time zone skewed so you’re probably asleep when I reply to the mail. Oh and Priority Inbox is pretty epic.

But wait, we’ve sort of been here before. It’s called Exchange and Lotus Notes. And you know what, I don’t want that either.

It ends up that in order for something to truly capture the PIM-experience (God, I did just say that), you need more than just IMAP and iCAL and XMPP. You need the whole stack wrapped in a nice integrated way, and many people have tried to do this and utterly failed. Exchange has the old school market pretty sown up, and most new companies would consider running their own mail system the equivalent to smelting your own steel or something.

So what is it I want/need? Well it certainly looks alot closer to Google Apps as a whole than the same triple paned PIM Outlook model. And the sheer amount of exceedingly excellent focused tools (that just so happen to be on the web!) that do a better job than generic email. When I watch a group of people use Trello I think “Man, each little step they do on that board would take me 3 emails with X amount of people to get done, and it’d be a ping-pong nightmare”. And yet there it is, the entire workflow on one page; simple and easy.

But hey, email is the great common demoninator, I guess I can appreciate that. No matter what, we’ll always have email and top posting; just like we’ll always have Kardashians, the Jersey Shore, and Nickelback. Can there be innovation in person to person communication? Absolutely. Do I think you’re going to find it in traditional email clients? Nope.

I wouldn’t panic though, there’s plenty of people who need/want local clients, I just think you all are becoming rarer. If it’s any consolation, the Seamonkey folks manage to still make releases, despite Mozilla focusing on Firefox this entire time. I’m sure there will be an opportunity for the same sort of thing for Thunderbird.