Birds are hard to take care of. I would never wish the duty of cleaning up after one of them, especially parrots, on anyone. Imagine all the work Mozilla must go through to take care of the terrifying Thunderbird. What's that? Thunderbird is not a real bird, but just a personalized email client. Even so, there comes a time when one has to cut their losses and just let the birds go to fend for themselves.
Mozilla announced last week that they would be handing off development of Thunderbird to the users. In a blog post, Mitchell Baker, Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, said that "continued innovation in Thunderbird is not a priority for Mozilla's product efforts." What does that mean? They will continue to provide support, but any further development is being left up to the users.
To kickstart the process of handing Thunderbird over to the users, Mozilla will roll out the Extended Support Release of Thunderbird. Similar to Microsoft's own Extended Support plans for older versions of Windows, Mozilla will continue to provide security updates through this version.
Developers interested in keeping up with Thunderbird and taking it to the next level should stay tuned to Mozilla's page on Thunderbird developments. The non-profit will be releasing a new version of Thunderbird ESR on November 20. From that point on, it will be up to developers to create new features for Thunderbird.
While one can interpret this as the beginning of the end for Thunderbird, it could be a glorious new beginning for the open source email client. Depending on community involvement, it could become bigger and better than it ever was. It's unfortunate that Mozilla didn't think it was worth investing in anymore, but it's probably for the best. As Baker said, they set out to be an innovative and open source Internet messaging client, but never fully achieved that goal. It's better for them to focus on Firefox and Firefox OS and leave legacy software in the hands of the users.