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Thunderbird In 2023: The Milestones and The Lessons We Learned

The Thunderbird Project enjoyed a fantastic 2023. From my point of view – as someone who regularly engages with both the community and our team on a daily basis – the past year brought a renewed sense of purpose, sustainability, and excitement to Thunderbird. Let’s talk about a few of the awesome milestones Thunderbird achieved, but let’s also discuss where we stumbled and what lessons we learned along the way. 

Our 2023 Milestones

The biggest milestone of 2023 was Thunderbird 115 “Supernova.” This release marked the first step towards a more flexible, reliable, and customizable Thunderbird that will accommodate different needs and workflows. Work has been long underway to modernize huge amounts of old code, with the aim of modernizing Thunderbird to deliver new features even faster. The “Supernova” release represented the first fruits of those efforts, and there’s a lot more in the pipeline! 

Alongside Supernova came a brand new Thunderbird logo to signal the revitalization of the project. We finally (even a bit reluctantly) said goodbye to our beloved “wig on an envelope” and ushered in a new era of Thunderbird with a refreshed, redesigned logo. But it was important to honor our roots, which is why we hired Jon Hicks – the designer of the original Firefox and Thunderbird logos – to help us bring it to life. (Now that you’ve all been living with it for the last several months, has it grown on you? Let us know in the comments of this post!)

One 2023 milestone that deserves more attention is that we hired a dedicated User Support Specialist! Roland Tanglao has been working enthusiastically towards removing “documentation debt” and updating the 100s of Thunderbird support articles at support.mozilla.org (which you’ll see us refer to internally as “SUMO”). Beyond that, he keeps a watchful eye on our Matrix community support channel for emerging issues, and is in the forums answering as many help questions as humanly possible, alongside our amazing support volunteers. In a nutshell, Roland is doing everything he can to improve the experience of asking for and receiving support, modernize existing documentation, and create new guides and articles that make using Thunderbird easier.

These are some – not all – of our accomplishments from last year. But it’s time to shift focus to where we stumbled, and how we’ll do better. 

The Lessons We Learned In 2023

In 2023, we failed to finish some of the great features we wanted to bring to Thunderbird, including Sync and Account Hub (both of which, however, are still in development). We also missed our target release window for Thunderbird on Android, after deciding it was worth the extra development time to add the kind of functionality and flexibility you expect from Thunderbird software. 

Speaking of functionality you expect, we hear you loud and clear: you want Exchange support in Thunderbird. We’ve already done some exploratory work, and have enabled the usage of Rust in Thunderbird. This is a complex topic, but the short version is that this opens the doors for us to start implementing native support for the Exchange protocol. It’s officially on our roadmap!

We also believe our communication with you has fallen short of where it needs to be. There are times when we get so excited about things we’re working on that it seems like marketing hype. In other situations, we have over-promised and under-delivered because these projects haven’t been extensively scoped out.

We’re beginning to solve the latter issue with the recent hiring of Kelly McSweeney, Senior Technical PM. She joined our team late last year and brings 20 years of valuable experience to Thunderbird. In a nutshell, Kelly is building processes and tools to accurately gauge how long development time will realistically take, from extensive projects to the tiniest tasks. Basically, she’s getting us very organized and making things run much more efficiently! This not only means smoother operations across the organization, but also clearer communication with you going forward. 

And communication is our biggest area of opportunity right now, specifically with our global Thunderbird community. We haven’t been as transparent as an open source project should be, nor have we discussed our future plans frequently enough. We’ve had several meetings about this over the past few weeks, and we’re taking immediate steps to do better. 

To begin with, you’ll start seeing monthly Developer Digests like this one from Alex, aimed at giving you a closer look at the work currently being planned. We’re also increasing our activity on the Thunderbird mailing lists, where you can give us direct feedback about future improvements and features. 

In 2024 you can also look forward to monthly community Office Hours sessions. This is where you can get some face time (or just voice time) with our team, and watch presentations about upcoming features and improvements by the developer(s) working on them. 

One last thing: In 2023, Thunderbird’s Marketing & Communications team consisted of myself and Wayne Mery. This year Wayne and I are fortunate to be working alongside new team members Heather Ellsworth, Monica Ayhens-Madon, and Natalia Ivanova. Together, we’re going to work diligently to create more tutorials on the blog, more video guides, and more content to help you get the most out of Thunderbird – with a focus on productivity. 

How To Stay Updated

Thank you for being on this journey with us! If you want to get more involved and stay in touch, here are the best places to keep up with what’s happening at Thunderbird:

21 responses

jakarta_banana wrote on

Love to see Thunderbird improving communication. BTW, was Thunderbird send a part of this “marketing hype.” i don’t see it on the roadmap.

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Jason Evangelho wrote on

Thunderbird Send is still very much in development! But we started talking about it a bit prematurely. We missed a couple features on the new roadmap update, but as the projects get scoped out, they’ll be added.

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Oliver wrote on

First of all, a BIG thank you for your revival of Thunderbird!
I couldn’t do more than put some money in your coffee cup, but at least that.

I’m really looking forward to Sync. I use a desktop and a notebook and hope to simplify my life with this tool.

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Jason Evangelho wrote on

Thank you, Oliver! Putting some money in our collective coffee cup is quite a big thing, actually. When 10s of 1000s of people do that, amazing things happen. It ALL makes a difference.

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Donald Albertson wrote on

I’ve been using Thunderbird for as long as it has been available. When I worked at a site that used Outlook, I installed it on my work unit as a way to keep personal email separate from official work email.

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Nigel Cavey wrote on

The Draft folders keep multiplying unbidden on my desktop version, both local and non-local! They seem to have shared out the draft emails, so would be an extremely time-consuming task to re-locate them into single Drafts folders. Why did this happen? SO annoying!!!

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Jason Evangelho wrote on

Hi Nigel, I’m sorry this is happening to you. It may be helpful to search for this issue at https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/products/thunderbird. Try If you can’t find your exact problem, feel free to post a question there and be as descriptive as possible so our support community can help you solve it.

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Quantum Max wrote on

Get off Twitter or “X” as it is full of people pushing discontent and hate.

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Jason Evangelho wrote on

You’re not wrong, and we vastly prefer Mastodon & the Fediverse. But a lot of our users are on Twitter, and abandoning them because of some bad actors doesn’t seem fair.

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Marco wrote on

Thanks for your hard work, my early donation coming in March … 😉

Loo: I still find the logo with the golden envelope much better than the current. That had meaning. Then it went down a dull road to be something you find in any supermarket: no taste (sorry).

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Wolkenfarmer wrote on

Hi, I like the new logo and consistency with the Firefox one 🙂

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Jason Evangelho wrote on

Thanks! We definitely wanted to convey visually that we’re part of the Mozilla family.

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Michael Bukrinsky wrote on

If I may ask for unique fiaturr that many users will appreciate and will save them time – scan from email by press of a button, such time saving.
Keep developing and posting tips Medio on youtube

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Jason Evangelho wrote on

Hi Michael and thanks for your feedback! It sounds like you have a feature idea that would be great to have on Connect. Please consider posting it there so that both our team and the community can upvote and discuss it: https://connect.mozilla.org/t5/ideas/idb-p/ideas/label-name/thunderbird

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nicu wrote on

I am still not liking the new logo, at the size of the icon on my desktop panel, the envelope doesn’t look like an envelope so I click on a blue blob.

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Robert Egger wrote on

Dear Thunderbird-Team,
some features are “must haves” and some are “nice to haves”. The biggest challenge for Steve Jobs was not to decide what to put into the iPhone, but what should not be put into the iPhone (assuming that his biography is correct in this respect). Please consider this carefully. Too many features (as in some well known Office Suites) tend to make life rather complicated. After all I like Thunderbird for its eas of use.
One of the “must haves” for Thunderbird (from my point of view) ist the connectivity with “Microsoft 365” accounts. When we consider that currently there are about 400 Million users of Microsoft 365 it is hard to understand why Thunderbird still is not able to natively connect to Microsoft Exchange.
Thunderbird would be great deal for all the users of “Microsoft 365 Business Basic” (which offers an Exchange account, but does not include Microsoft Outlook).
Kind regards from Vienna,
Robert

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Jason Evangelho wrote on

Hi Robert and thanks for that feedback! The great news is our work on native Exchange support is already underway (which we allude to in this blog post). It’s a complicated problem to solve, but one we’re finally working towards diligently. And to be honest, we want to liberate those users and give them a more private, more ethical choice. We’ll keep you posted as often as possible on this feature coming to Thunderbird.

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Richard Friedman wrote on

Thank you again and again for continuing to support Tbird. I’ve been using it from the beginning and rely on it daily. BUT, when will you release a version for iOS? I hate Apple Mail and won’t use it. So I’m forced to used other clients that mess up constantly. For those of us with multiple email accounts on multiple servers, Thunderbird is the only way to go. Now, if only it was available on my iPhone/iPad!

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Jason Evangelho wrote on

Believe me, we hear you! Our first priority on mobile is Thunderbird for Android, and we’re getting very close to launching it. After that, we plan to work earnestly on Thunderbird for iOS. But unlike our Android version, it will need to be built from scratch. It will take time, but it WILL happen.

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Jon wrote on

hello, Few people use maildir? I would like to see it finished, although it already works well

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Graham Moore wrote on

How about developing a non-IT savvy repair function for Thunderbird? I’ve had my deleted messages instantly disappear from my Trash folders since the late 80 series versions. There are some other things I run across that I’d like to correct/change too, but am afraid to scrape it all off and attempt a reload of all the emails and calendar events from Telus/Google. If I lost everything in my calendar I’d be sunk – I use all this for my work.
The Telus migration to Google managing their email didn’t help either.

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