Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

MailCo for MoFo

Mitchell Baker, the CEO of the Mozilla Corporation and a board member of the Mozilla Foundation, has announced on her blog that the Foundation will be creating a new  corporation, a sister company to the Mozilla Corporation to focus on e-mail communications:

"... Mozilla is launching a new effort to improve email and internet communications. We will increase our investment and focus on our current email client -- Thunderbird -- and on innovations in the email and communications areas. We are doing so by creating a new organization with this as its sole focus and committing resources to this organization. The new organization doesn't have a name yet, so I'll call it MailCo here. MailCo will be part of the Mozilla Foundation and will serve the public benefit mission of the Mozilla Foundation. (Technically, it will be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation, just like the Mozilla Corporation.)"

I only heard some of the details of this the other day but, given the topic of communication and messaging in a number of my posts here over the last few weeks, I’m very excited to see that this is happening. I would like to see a next generation messaging application or an evolution of Thunderbird to work with IM, SMS, and other kinds of messaged connectivity.

I’m looking forward to hearing more details as things develop.

Update:  I see that news.com is giving some commentary on this announcement. One bit that stood out to me was this bit from a Microsoft talking head, Clint Patterson:

Microsoft said competition is healthy, but it professed not to be worried about increased resources being devoted to Thunderbird. "Businesses today require more than basic email; they need to communicate and collaborate, and this is what Outlook and Exchange Server deliver," Clint Patterson, public relations director for Microsoft's Unified Communications Group, said in a statement. As evidence, he pointed to features such as management of contacts and calendars, and access via the Web or mobile devices. And he went a step beyond that, too, with a bolder criticism: "The open-source development model has yet to demonstrate the ability to support profitable software businesses that can drive the coordinated research and testing necessary to sustain innovation," Patterson said, pointing to hybrid business models that some start-ups use to layer proprietary extras atop open-source foundations. Microsoft welcomed cooperation with Mozilla to make Thunderbird dovetail with Exchange, as Motorola, Palm, Nokia, Symbian, Sony-Ericsson and others have done. "Microsoft has licensing programs in place for the protocols to access Exchange Server--the Outlook-Exchange Transport Protocol and Exchange ActiveSync," Patterson said.

Notice how it is all about Exchange and Outlook. That makes sense as that is where Microsoft makes its money. No mention of Outlook Express or the new WinMail in Vista. Of course, that also makes sense if you know a little of the history of OE. People are generally aware that Microsoft starved Internet Explorer of resources for a number of years but what they don’t know is they did it even more to Outlook Express. The work on WinMail was done very much against the will of many people inside Microsoft and was rather problematic. Several people that I used to work with wound up on that team and I recall that many of us working on Vista were afraid to dogfood it because it tended to eat e-mail for quite a while.

Now, this happens to a lot of software in its lifecycle, so it isn’t all bad, but my point is that the Exchange/Outlook space is the only place Microsoft is interested in playing within and only for rather large profits. The possibilities for MailCo are much larger than this space, especially since their is the potential around web-based mail, IM, and other messaging areas as well as adding traditional Calendar support more tightly into the project or other applications. Where Microsoft was happy to starve a team of resources and remove most of its staffing, Mozilla is creating a whole new company and giving it free reign to run things as they wish.

I think lean, hungry, and unleashed will win over an aging and understaffed mail application that Microsoft doesn’t even want to work on and certainly isn’t looking to expand into, for example, their MSN Live spaces or, heaven forbid, open standards like XMPP.