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Mozilla Forms E-mail Technology Company To Develop Thunderbird

Mozilla committed $3 million in seed funding to support e-mail innovation and to develop the open-source Thunderbird e-mail client.

Mozilla yesterday committed $3 million in seed funding to establish an as-yet-unnamed subsidiary to support e-mail innovation and to develop the open-source Thunderbird e-mail client.

MailCo, as the nascent organization is being called until a suitable name can be secured, is modeled along the lines of the Mozilla Corporation, a for-profit subsidiary of the non-profit Mozilla Foundation that was formed in 2005 to create and distribute open-source software like the Firefox Web browser.

David Ascher, currently CTO and VP Engineering of ActiveState, has been chosen to run the new e-mail company.

"Innovating in mail and communications advances our vision of choice across the spectrum of Internet software," said Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation, in a statement. "David has been a respected member of the Mozilla community for many years and we're excited that he is joining Mozilla to lead this important effort."

In July, Baker said in a blog post, "We have concluded that we should find a new, separate organizational setting for Thunderbird; one that allows the Thunderbird community to determine its own destiny."

The Thunderbird community consists of about 5 million people using the software worldwide. Mozilla said that nothing will change for Thunderbird users.

That lack of change may be what's been preventing Thunderbird from being as popular as Firefox. The constant development of online e-mail clients like Google Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Microsost Hotmail, in conjunction with the failure of Thunderbird's developers to deliver a competitive calendar application to challenge Microsoft Outlook, has left Thunderbird somewhat behind the times.

As Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo continue to integrate their free online e-mail services with other applications like IM, calendars, and the like, not to mention anti-spam technology, Thunderbird's status as a stand-alone e-mail client looks like a liability.

Perhaps with MailCo behind it, Thunderbird will rise again.

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