Mozilla Brings Thunderbird Back In-House

Signaling a shift in its approach to online communication, Mozilla on Monday announced that it is bringing its Messaging subsidiary back within the fold of the main organization, where it will be absorbed into its Mozilla Labs group instead.

Practically, that will mean that Mozilla's popular Thunderbird email client software will now fall into one of two communication-focused projects under way within Mozilla Labs. While development will continue on Thunderbird there, a new and parallel innovation group within Mozilla Labs will focus on "online communications and social interactions on the Web," Mozilla Foundation chair Mitchell Baker explained in a blog post on the topic.

"The Web has changed a lot in the last few years," Baker wrote. "One of the big changes is how much we now use the Web for messaging, communication and social interactions. We post messages on social networking sites, we tweet, we get messages (often known as 'notifications') from applications, we use Web-based mail systems. The pace and importance of innovation in this space is enormous and growing."

Mozilla Labs has already been working on "identity, contacts and related topics," Baker noted. After the teams merge, Mozilla Messaging will be dissolved.

'A Solid and Foundational Technology'

The Mozilla Messaging subsidiary was formed back in 2008 to focus on Mozilla's open source Thunderbird software as well as tools including Raindrop for messaging and the F1 browser extension for social sharing.

Current Messaging head David Ascher will continue to oversee Thunderbird as well as leading the new, Web-focused innovation group, Baker said.

"Thunderbird users and contributors should see no difference in their experience," she explained. "Email is a solid and foundational technology which retains immense value.... We intend to continue our work with the Thunderbird email product to meet this need."

Focus on Firefox

I've been using Thunderbird for a very long time, but--particularly given Mozilla's outstanding success with its latest Firefox 4 release--I can see that shifting more focus to browser-enabled communication would be a logical next step.

It's going to be exciting to see what new capabilities will arrive in upcoming versions of Firefox as a result.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk .

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