Thunderbird/Proposal: New Release and Governance Model

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Warning signWarning: This is an out-of-date document stored for historical purposes as it contains links to discussions that where previously held. The full and complete document is available here

Mozilla is focusing a lot of its efforts towards important web and mobile projects, while Thunderbird remains a pure desktop only email client. We have come to the conclusion that continued innovation on Thunderbird is not a priority for Mozilla and that the most critical needs for the product are on-going security and stability. In fact, it is quite possible that Thunderbird is already pretty much what its users want and there is not a high demand for innovation in this field.

However, we do recognize that there is a very large number of users (more than 20 million) who use Thunderbird and rely on it on a daily basis, sometimes for the most mission critical tasks. Furthermore, Thunderbird is one of the very few truly free and open source multi-platform email application available today and we want to defend these values.

In order to manage these two perspectives, we are proposing to adapt the Thunderbird release and governance model in a way that allows both ongoing security and stability maintenance as well as community driven innovations for the product. We are opening this plan for discussion to individuals and organizations interested in maintaining and advancing Thunderbird in the future. We are looking for your feedback, comments and suggestions to refine and adapt the plan in the best possible way.



Thunderbird and Thunderbird ESR

There are currently two editions of Thunderbird: 'Thunderbird' and 'Thunderbird ESR'. Both will be maintained and based on the same Gecko engine release. Only 'Thunderbird' is affected by the change:

  • A new release of Thunderbird ESR will be available on November 20th, 2012. As defined in the Thunderbird ESR plan (, it will inherit the then-current Thunderbird feature-set. This release will be updated every six weeks, for the duration of the ESR cycle to ensure the best possible security and stability for organizations.
  • At the same time, Thunderbird will be released with the same feature set as Thunderbird ESR and will be updated every six-weeks for security and stability. However, and contrary to Thunderbird ESR, Thunderbird feature set might evolve over time and solely based on the availability of community contributions.

The proposed plan should therefore have no impact in the way individuals and organizations use the product and obtain updates.

Governance model

Thunderbird is driven by a lightweight structure, focusing on producing security updates and suited to welcome community contributed innovations:

  • Thunderbird modules owners ( will remain in charge of their module and will allow community contributions innovation on their own merits. Module ownership is open to any contributor and can evolve over time.
  • A Release Drivers team will produce the Thunderbird updates every six weeks and will work with module owners on the planning and integration of the community contributed innovations.

  • Mozilla will continue to provide paid staff, logistics and infrastructure for the release drivers team to produce updates and new releases with the same level of quality than before. Support will continue to be provided by the Thunderbird community and Mozilla will continue to provide the required infrastructure.

Timeline and getting involved

We are looking forward to getting your questions and comments on this plan. We would like to refine it throughout the summer so we can discuss the final details at the beginning of September 2012. If you want to be involved in this discussion, please use the tb-planning mailing list ( as a discussion forum.


Warning signWarning: This document is work in progress.

For the sake of practicality and during the discussion period,

  • Feel free to document the below sections with topics you want to be addressed.
  • Among the needed information, we need to document the questions we have and questions regarding Mozilla participation in this section.
  • Etherpad is probably more practical to jot ideas down than the Wiki. Therefore, it might be useful to create one for each of the below sections to allow contributors to collaborate towards identifying the needs and their solutions.

Each section below addresses one aspect of maintaining and building Thunderbird. They reflect the discussions that have taken place with volunteers and Mozilla employees during the summer of 2012.


Link to etherpad:


The current Module wikis are: Thunderbird, MailNews Core

Link to etherpad:

Release Drivers

Release drivers roles

Link to etherpad:

Resources provided by Mozilla

Mozilla will provide to following resources for Thunderbird:

The Thunderbird release driver team will be composed of the following paid-staff:

  • Lead Engineer & Release Driver: Mark Banner
  • Back End Integration Engineer: Irving Reid
  • Quality Assurance: Ludovic Hirlimann
  • Web Development: Andrei 'Sancus' Hajdukewycz
  • Support: Roland Tanglao
  • Release Engineering: John Hopkins
  • Business Development & Legal: Jean-Baptiste Piacentino

Infrastructure to build and support Thunderbird will remain untouched (Release Engineering, Web Services and Support services).


  • From Thunderbird 17, releases will generally follow the ESR branch.
  • There will be one or two feature releases per year; the first of these in sync with a new ESR branch, the second is an optional release.
  • There will be security releases every 6 weeks of both mainstream and ESR.
  • Mainstream and ESR releases will not be merged to allow for the intermediate release.
  • We will examine the possibilities for relaxing the rules for stability and security fixes on the ESR branch to allow a greater range of fixes to be landed.
  • Daily, Earlybird and Beta channels will continue to be developed
    • this will continue to provide the platforms for helping ensure stability for the next feature release and
    • for Localizers to translate the required strings
  • Releases on the beta channel will be reduced to one per gecko cycle
    • An additional release may happen if a severe (stability/security) issue affecting beta users is found
    • Additional releases will happen in the two cycles in the run-up to the next feature release to help to ensure stability
  • ToDo: Need diagram here

Although the intermediate release is not desired at the current time, for an intermediate release to happen, the following would be required:

  • A set of features / improvements that can't be incorporated into the normal stability / security releases, due to breaking add-on compatibility or changing localized strings
  • Community commitment to back-port the features
  • A way for the localization of the strings to be back-ported

The decision for the intermediate release is made by the module owners, but signed off by the release drivers.

Link to etherpad:


  • In-product l10n:
    • Due to the release pattern, localizers can continue to work as the have been with the rapid release
    • If an intermediate release is held, we would need to work out how to back-port sign-offs and changes to an intermediate release branch
    • Currently there are no plans to allow localizers to do updates on the ESR branch, but this is open to feedback and may change
  • Website L10n:
    • This should remain the same process as it is now, unless policies change
  • ToDo:
    • We need to complete the documentation for management of L10n (product & website)

Link to etherpad:


  • Add-on Review mechanisms to continue working as they are with the AMO editor team
  • Compatibility bumps still need to be done per release (partial documentation complete)

Link to etherpad:

Quality Assurance

  • Ludovic will continue to lead and head up QA
  • This is already a community-involved process
  • Todo: Document how bugs get from triage to developers

Link to etherpad:

Services & Web Sites

  • Generally, services will continue to have hardware supported by Mozilla IT.
  • site style maintained by Mozilla Web dev team, content updates by community and release drivers team.
  • is expected to be integrated into
  • ispdb expected to be brought up to replace the static files for autoconfig.
  • Other sites expected to be low maintenance, but change processes to be documented.

Link to etherpad:


  • Support sites are already largely community supported and driven
  • will continue until SUMO integrates Thunderbird KB in to the KB (currently scheduled for late Q4 as part of multi-platform work for Firefox OS and Firefox Mobile to be confirmed in early to mid Q4)
  • get satisfaction continues as Thunderbird support forum until SUMO integrates Thunderbird forums into the forums (currently scheduled in Q1 as part of multi-platform work for Firefox Mobile, to be confirmed in mid to late Q4)
  • Add-on support is status-quo - there's not much we can do in the KB. In Get Satisfaction it is suggested the use of an add-on specific tag e.g. 'conversations' for Thunderbird Conversations add-on, 'lightning' for Lightning, etc. - this really to me is an AMO issue but happy to use tags on GS until AMO has a better support experience for add-ons
  • Roland continues to lead support
    • Will still produce support reports 48 hours after release and the Monday after a release

Link to etherpad:


  • Documentation will continue to be on, or as mentioned in the support section
  • Documentation has good community involvement already, contact via the support mailing list
  • Need to ensure that the necessary documentation for releases is co-ordinated with release drivers
  • TBD: who is responsible for approving KB contributions?

Link to etherpad:


  • Engagement will be taken care of by a contributor. A Mozilla Reps is identified
  • it will cover the maintenance of current Facebook and Twitter accounts, opening new channels if needed
  • being a virtual module owner
  • managing eventual contributors event logistics
  • updating Start Page editorial calendar twice a year
  • liaising with MozGear for swags allocation to Friend of the Tree
  • keeping the Mozilla brand usage in line within Mozilla guidelines

Link to Etherpad:


  • Lightning will suffer from less manpower, specifically with Build Config and UI Design
  • Lightning's pace of development won't be significantly affected by this change
  • There may be a benefit during upgrades, as fewer binary-compatibility issues will arise.
  • Daily/Earlybird builds have to be monitored more closely, as they are the only notice for major platform changes that might affect Lightning.

Link to etherpad: