KDE is not the right place for Thunderbid

n7ipb's picture

For years, Mozilla has been saying they are no longer focused on Thunderbird and its place is outside of Mozilla. Now it seems they are going to act on what they said: Mozilla seeks new home for e-mail client Thunderbird.

The candidates they are exploring are the Software Freedom Conservancy, The Document Foundation, and I expect at least the Apache Software Foundation to be a serious candidate, and Gnome to propose.

Some voices in KDE say we should also propose the KDE eV as a candidate hosting organization.

I am not so sure. I am trying to think what the KDE eV can offer to Mozilla to be appealing to them and if my analysis is correct, we are too far and Thunderbird would pose many risks to the other projects in KDE.

(I am blurring the lines between “KDE eV”, “KDE community”, “KDE Frameworks”, etc as it has no relevance for the discussion)

Thunderbird is an open source project/product with a lot of commercial users and has (still has?) many paid contributors.

IMHO what Mozilla is looking for is an organization with a well-oiled funding machine, able to campaign for money (even if in a tight circle, something like ours Patron program), and accept and process funds in a way that directly benefits Thunderbird. I e. hiring developers to implement X or Y, or work on some area full-time, or at least, half-time.

KDE does not work like that.

KDE has few commercial users (other than distros, if you want to count them as commercial users). Other than Blue Systems, I don’t think we have any developer working for KDE.

Also, the eV is not exactly a well-oiled funding machine. We have been talking about that for years. And we do not hire developers directly to work on X or Y (at most, we pay for part of the expenses of sprints).

All of that makes me think we are not the right host for Thunderbird.

But it does not stop there!

Let’s say Thunderbird comes to KDE and suddenly we are offered USD 1 M from several organizations who want to be “Patrons of Thunderbird”, or influence Thunderbird, or whatever.

First problem: do we allow funds to go to a specific project rather than the eV deciding how to distribute them? AFAIK we do not allow that and at least one KDE sub-project has had trouble with that in the past.

Then there is the thing about “Patrons of Thunderbird”: no such thing. Either you are a Patron of KDE, including Plasma Mobile, OwnCloud, and whatnot, or you are nothing. You cannot be a “Patron of Partial KDE, namely Thunderbird”.

Influencing, did I say? The eV is by its own rules not an influencer on KDE’s direction, just an entity to provide legal and economic support. Quite the opposite from what Mozilla does today for Thunderbird.

Even if funders would not mind all that, there is the huge risk this poses for all the other projects. With as little as USD 200K donated towards Thunderbird (and USD 200K is not much for a product with so many commercial users, which means a healthy ecosystem of companies making money on support, development, etc, and thus donating to somehow influence or be perceived as important players), Thunderbird becomes the most important project in KDE. How would we manage this? In any sensible organization, Thunderbird would become the main focus and all the other KDE projects would be relegated. Even if we decide not to, external PR would make that look like it happened.

For all those reasons, I think KDE is not the right place for Thunderbird at the moment. It would require a big change in what the eV can do and how it operates. And that change may be for good but it’s not there now and it will not be by the time Mozilla has to decide if KDE is the right place.

All that, and I have not even talked about technology and what any sensible Thunderbird “customer” would think today: what is the medium and long-term roadmap? Migrate Thunderbird users to Kontact/KDE PIM? Port Thunderbird to Qt + KF5, maybe including moving to QtWebEngine? Will Windows support be deteriorated by that change? Or maybe the plan is to cancel KMail and Akregator? Those are second-thoughts, unimportant right now.


See original: Planet KDE KDE is not the right place for Thunderbid