Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Mozilla Acquires Pocket (blog.mozilla.org)
1187 points by qdot76367 266 days ago | hide | past | web | 445 comments | favorite

Mozilla is growing, experimenting more, and can acquire startups.

Mozilla doesn't have the resources to continue with Thunderbird.

I am increasingly baffled by their decisions and how they relate to the strategic plans [0] they've been producing for a while. Despite the worthy words in their plan they seem to have no sense of direction. That saddens me.

That said I'm happier having Pocket as an open source part of Mozilla/Firefox than a surprise integration of a commercial app.

[0] https://wiki.mozilla.org/MoFo_2020

Thunderbird doesn't make money. Pocket makes money.

That Mozilla is a Corp owned by a not-for-profit isn't the real thing anymore (ie not what people may believe, not that they have any obligation beside following the rule of law) - it just frees the Corp from having to report to random share holders - instead, the Corp and the Org self-select a Board of directors that they report to.

At the end of the day, it's otherwise now similar to many corporations.

Mozilla needs products that are relevant in the marketplace, to exist. Revenue is part but not all of this.

I don't think Mozilla can make meaningful impact in a world where it doesn't make products that internet users want to use. It would be a largely toothless advocacy organization at that point.

Millions of people want to use Thunderbird! I would even pay some amount for an "officially supported edition" of Thunderbird.

Would you be willing to pay that amount for an open source project without the official backing of Mozilla? Because I was under the impression that the source code to Thunderbird was, in fact, available under an open source license.

Yeah, I might be, actually. It would depend on who was involved and how much I trusted those devs, but at least conceptually, sure.

Why not postbox ?

never heard of it, looked at "Download", saw a big apple and a big window, no penguin. fail. also closed source AFAICT. thunderbird would be an incredible email app if only it had better maintenance.

Well it does the job already, working just fine for the 31-years-old IMAP protocol, the 33-years-old POP protocol, the 18-years-old RSS protocol, etc.. I might like an "incredible" email app but all I really need is a "sufficiently solid" one.. =)

You can see that just by looking at their job postings. The experimental ads team was hiring and then stopped and then the team was absorbed into other teams. Now they have more postings for project managers. They're basically introducing more hierarchy and traditional corp. stuff from the sounds of it.

Having more project managers is how things get done. I see it everyday at my company...

I had a coworker that used to say that when you have more managers than toilets, something is clearly wrong. It was a rule of thumb in his experience..

That is beautiful, but I need more data.

1. Do project managers, product managers, etc. count, or only real managers with teams reporting to them?

2. Do urinals count, or only real sit-down toilets?

Urinals MUST count. Assuming that women's bathrooms have more sit-down toilets than men's, we are biased. It is unfair and sexist to allow female dominated companies more than their fair share of project managers!


Do women's bathrooms have more sit down toilets than men's?

Generally, though less toilets in total because you can cram more urinals into the same space. A common small office toilet space has room for three stalls so in the female room that is what you'll find. In the male variant the space of one of the stalls will instead be given to two individual urinals or a small "urinal wall" that comfortably houses two people or you can get three into if people are desperate. Larger rooms offer greater flexibility, but ultimately urinals take less space than stalls so you get more of them.

Of course that doesn't always mean more people going at the same time as some people don't like urinating so close to someone else so the second spot goes unused, and some of us prefer to sit for a no.1 anyway unless in a rush.

Usually, yes, in the space occupied by urinals in the men's toilets. But you can fit more urinals in that space.

I don't think I've ever been somewhere with more toilets than managers, that probably supports the assertion though.

I can't tell if you're for real or just being sarcastic.

More meetings help too :)

Clearly sarcasm.

you might have not had more than one manager then :)

Product managers and hierarchical reporting structures are nothing new to Mozilla, quite the contrary.

how does pocket make money? they do have pocket premium: https://getpocket.com/premium?ep=2 but I never saw them advertising it and never thought about using it and I'm using pocket heavily past several months. Is "pocket premium" their main source of income? Is it bringing real dollars?

They slot 'sponsered content' blocks into your stream of saved items, it's done very well IMO. These have to make some decent $$$ surely.

However, I just checked my queue and couldn't see any.

> Pocket makes money.

Just pocket money though.

Just a question on top of my head, could Mozilla make a SaaS, like a email services ( example only ), and have those money go into continuing develop Firefox.

And as a non-profit entity, could they retain some profit they have as investment or cash somewhere. In case some day they run into negatives they could use those as reserves?

But at the end of the day, Mozilla need some very serious management restructuring, starting from the very top end. Having been a Netscape user from over two decade ago, I finally left Firefox. And if you follow their decision, mailing list etc, you can feel how bureaucratic they are. Slow response to market changes, completely lack of ( actionable )vision, often having completely unrealistic target. Extreme inefficiency in development of its product. And these aren't my thoughts or comment only, their are many ex mozillian employees who felt the same. We all thought Mozilla should have been a great company achieving far then then they are today.

If the NFL can call themselves a nonprofit then anyone else should be able to do the same.

The NFL is a nonprofit by any reasonable definition, even without the explicit exception in 501(c)(6). Or rather, it was, until it voluntarily gave up its tax-exempt status in 2015 supposedly over public opinion about their status.

I think people simply aren't aware that all the major revenue associated with the NFL goes through specific teams, which are normal taxable corporations. Humorously, people also aren't aware that they gave up their tax exempt status, so I'm not sure that decision was worth it.

I surely wasn't aware that they gave up their tax exempt status. Huge props to them.

Do you have a source? Revenue and profit are completely different things, and I am curious if Pocket was making any profit. Otherwise it's losing money.

I suspect it's about the longer term profits, like any other corporation purchase. Generally, you can't buy/afford it when it's already super successful, but you can when it's on the verge of being that (but needs your funding/image/resources).

Normally companies raise venture capital in the cases you describe.

Acquisitions happen when the stakeholders (founders, employees, and investors) don't think they will get the level of return on investment they will be satisfied with.

Even if they DO decide to sell, the case you describe (on the verge of being successful but requires money to get to that point) sell at a disclosed amount. Undisclosed amount mostly means the investors and founders are not proud of the result so they would rather just keep it private.

> Thunderbird doesn't make money. Pocket makes money.

That's not the case anymore with this merger though, right? Pocket will now cease to make actual money.

From the announcement: "Pocket will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Mozilla Corporation"

Mozilla Corporation is a for-profit, taxable entity. Here are their articles of incorporation: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/foundation/documents/articles-.... It is itself a wholly owned subsidiary of Mozilla Foundation, which is the non-profit thing that people call "Mozilla". The Foundation is really just a holding company. The thing that people call "Mozilla" that does all of the work is The Corporation.

The foundation exists as a separate entity because laws prohibit charitable donations from being used for all but a small number of categories, and software development generally does not fall under such a category. The funds received by the foundation pretty much have to go towards education (or things that can be justified as education, e.g. sponsoring educational conferences or sponsoring attendees to such conferences). Charitable donations can't be used to fund Firefox development.

I really wish there was an easier way to do this, ideally something like a corporation with no shareholders.

That's exactly what a nonprofit is. Nonprofits are corporations like any other, with a few key differences:

- Instead of shareholders, nonprofits have members. Members don't own the corporation (no one does) but control it insofar that they hire-and-fire its directors.

- Memberships normally can't be sold, and nonprofits have no equivalent to dividends.

- There are stronger conflict-of-interest protections, preventing officers from signing cheques to themselves or otherwise using the corporation's resources for their personal benefit - at least without someone else's approval.

A typical setup for nonprofits is to tie memberships to being a director, so that current board members choose their own successors. This is known as a "self-perpetuating board".

IIRC non-profits can't make and keep profits. Corps can, hence Mozilla Corp. They can keep profits around in order to.. like, purchase Pocket, or simply pay employees later when Mozilla makes less profit, or whatever else.

These things are hard or maybe impossible in a non-profit (IANAL/correct me if I'm wrong)

> IIRC non-profits can't make and keep profits.

Non-profits can make surplus revenues over costs and retain them; they can't return profits to shareholders or other particular beneficiaries.

Certain classes of nonprofits are restricted from certain business activities, or limited to certain activities. E.g., charities (501c3 nonprofits) must be organized and operated exclusively for purposes on an list of charitable purposes.

Yes, nonprofits can charge money and hold onto it. What they can't do is distribute it to shareholders. Many universities are nonprofits, and they hold on to millions or billions of dollars. Nonprofits can also acquire companies, etc.

The terms "nonprofit" and "not-for-profit" are unfortunate misnomers. Like any other company, nonprofits can offer gainful employment and will eventually bankrupt if they never turn a profit.

Yes, something like that but without the need to create a separate foundation and corporation.

AFAIK, Mozilla has the structure they do because the IRS frowns upon charities (which is shorthand for "tax-exempt corporation") engaging in business-like activities but is fine with charities owning for-profit companies as a source of income (and like any shareholder can do, direct the for-profit company to benefit its owner).

Regional differences may be relevant here: in Canada, you can incorporate a nonprofit corporation and later apply for charity status (which restricts the company's possible activities in exchange for a 0% income tax rate) but it's completely optional.

In the US, on the other hand, to the best of my knowledge, one has to establish a for-profit entity first and then apply to the IRS to recognize it as a charity (which is a lengthy process). The words "charity" and "nonprofit" are interchangeable in the US for that reason.

If the concept of a non-charitable nonprofit exists in your jurisdiction, you can get the benefits of a nonprofit structure (ie. no owners) without restricting the company's activities, minus tax exemption and being able to issue tax receipts.

For context: I founded a non-charitable nonprofit in Canada; I'm not super familiar with the US side of things so I'm happy to be corrected.

> in Canada, you can incorporate a nonprofit corporation and later apply for charity status

The US works similarly. You incorporate as a nonprofit, but you have to separately apply for tax-exempt status afterwards. If you don't, you're a nonprofit without the benefits of being tax-exempt.

A corporation is a legal entity, so to do this I imagine you must alter the country's legal code first?

The people that complain about mozilla stopping development on thunderbird seem to be the same people that complain about things like firefox moving to WebExtensions, and Firefox changing their UI, and Firefox integrating Pocket.

I don't understand why people are disappointed that Mozilla has stopped actively developing thunderbird - it means it's not going to change. There is an email client that you like, as is, and want to keep using, and you're annoyed because mozilla has promised not to change it?

Does the lack of changes include no security updates? Then yes, one should be annoyed and Thunderbird usage should be discontinued.

No, security updates are still being made. Here's the release notes for recent security fixes in thunderbird:


Are the security updates done by Mozilla itself or by the volunteers that continue Thunderbird development?

The security patches are largely from Mozilla's Gecko/SpiderMonkey/Toolkit work. The people who create the patches tend to be Mozilla employees. Looking over the 45.x Thunderbird releases I don't see a single Thunderbird specific security fix. [1]

The team that qualifies and does the release work for Thunderbird are volunteers. I believe that the builds are done on Mozilla hosted hardware.

[1] https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/security/advisories/

why do you care where the patches come from?

One might care where the patches come from as a volunteer community could be less reliable over time than the paid Mozilla staff. I know I certainly feel that way.

But if you prefer security updates from paid employees of an organization rather than volunteers, surely a commercial product rather than a free one would be more suitable for your needs?

Not necessarily. I appreciate the values for which Mozilla stands, and those values are entrenched in their products.

So you're looking for an organisation who will use non-free employees to give you a product for free?

I really don't see your point.

It doesn't feel that way anymore.

In what way? I'm wary of some of Mozilla's decisions, but their allegiance to their mission & manifesto doesn't seem at stake.

> One might care where the patches come from as a volunteer community could be less reliable over time than the paid Mozilla staff. I know I certainly feel that way.

The people who are making these complaints are disproportionately those who have no problem using Debian or Arch, so I don't think that's the crux of the issue for them.

Spoken like a manager.

Something is either being actively developed or it's dieing, there is no in between with software, there is no finished state.

Does being maintained count as being actively developed? I think it should. As long as Thunderbird gets security patches, and maybe even the occasional bug fix, I'm happy with it.

I wish more pieces of software would get to the finished state and would slip into maintenance mode.

Probably not. Developers are fickle and few like to do maintenance only work. So even if it's still getting security patches they are likely to be losing the institutional knowledge to continue that in future, not to mention keeping up with things like API changes for gmail integration.

Which Gmail APIs? Has there been an update to IMAP that I'm not aware of?

GMail has been pushing for its custom XOAUTH2 authentication for a while, and password-based authentication can result in security warnings. Password-based authentication also doesn't support 2FA.

By the way - the IETF standardised an OAuth2 SASL mechanism (RFC 7628) a couple of years ago, no idea why GMail doesn't support it.

I'm asking which Gmail APIs would Thunderbird have to keep up with. As far as I know, it never used that API, hence it doesn't have to keep up with it.

Sorry, didn't understand you right.

Basically, the only thing that is kind-of Gmail specific is the auth support (https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=849540). If Gmail sometimes in future switches from OAuth2 to some other protocol, the client will have to be updated.

I haven't used thunderbird in a while, have they not added an easy setup for people using the popular online mail servers yet?

It seems that they have. I just started using Thunderbird again after a number of years and the setup to connect to my gmail account has been simplified to confirming the settings on one page with three auto-filled fields.

You don't need an API for that, just a few hardcoded settings that get auto-filled based on the domain.

That certainly sounds nice but it's not true. Or at the very least depends on how you define software. If software is built upon an evolving platform (such as the web) and has a self-supplying revenue stream if it needs one at all, then it can be done and will last.

Even for embedded software though, if something hasn't been looked at for years then the original developers probably don't remember it and may not still be around. If a client want's a feature or tweak then the institutional knowledge is gone and the best bet would be starting from scratch.

Maybe it's something that is of value to a lot of users and a non-profit (http://www.computerworld.com/article/3011418/web-browsers/mo...) might help move that important software in the future. Like a competitive open-source browser, a competitive mail client is a good thing. Not everyone want to use the cloud.

Well, at some point OS compatibility will break, no?

Thunderbird is still under active development, I'm one of their users, being the best email client for the desktop. Unfortunately Thunderbird is also a dead end, being incompatible with Firefox's direction.

Yes, XUL is dead and Firefox is evolving into a Chrome substitute and while people have serious concerns about it, fact of the matter is that Chrome was designed for web apps and almost 9 years after its release Chrome is still the best browser available for web apps. Not sure how many people here remember Chrome's original goals, beautifully illustrated by their comic book announcement, but here's a refresher and try to count the problems that Firefox still has in 2017: https://www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome/index.html

In other words, Firefox is dying because users have been trained to expect security, stability, an interface free of crappy toolbars and extensions you can't uninstall, not to mention running long lived web apps. And while people on this forum will cry out for Vimperator or other poweruser extensions that 99.9% of the world have never heard about, it's undeniable that without evasive action Firefox will become a footnote in only a couple of years.

I'm also a Firefox user and I understand their move away from Thunderbird. For work I use Gmail, personal email is Fastmail, both have really good web interfaces. And while I try using email clients like Thunderbird, the web interfaces are simply good enough and always there. These are web apps btw and guess which browser is best for web apps? It's not Firefox ;-)

And for all I care Mozilla can kill every project they have, if that means Firefox continues to improve. Because it's still the only browser that cares about my freedoms.

As a data point, my webapp (PartsBox.io) works best/fastest in Safari, Chrome is second, Firefox a distant and slow third. So, I'd take issue with the statement that "Chrome is the best browser available for web apps", at least on MacOS, and at least for some web apps (I know WebGL apps work better in Chrome).

But gmail and fastmail don't work offline.

That is only because they haven't yet caught up with the technologies available to them. Are there are email web apps that have adopted Service Workers? Although to be fair that's not going to work well for keeping a large offline archive.

You can have GMail offline by installing the Chrome App.

The only time I find myself offline is when I'm flying. Not that big of a deal.

So you don't need or require backups of your emails offline?

For personal email I don't care that much for backups, I trust Fastmail to do it better than me.

I do use Thunderbird for offline backups, more because of the thought of losing important work email. But without combining it with an actual backup system, that's not actual backup, because IMAP does synchronization and messages deleted on the server translate to messages deleted on the client side as well. So I combine it with Arq Backup, which does daily uploads of everything on my laptop.

I do wonder whether using Thunderbird for backups is wise. I never recovered from a Thunderbird archive. Sometimes I'm thinking that a solution like OfflineIMAP or mbsync/isync might be better.

I could be wrong here, but the thunderbird thing is basically that it was way too much work for little gain -- the way Thunderbird is designed was that it was a kind-of-fork of Firefox, and too many resources were being wasted just keeping the "fork" up to date from changes to internal Firefox APIs.

I'm also not sure of this, but that vision thing you link to is focused on the goals of the Foundation proper (excluding MoCo), which is not all of Mozilla, and many of the decisions fall out of that scope.

> the way Thunderbird is designed was that it was a kind-of-fork of Firefox, and too many resources were being wasted just keeping the "fork" up to date from changes to internal Firefox APIs.

No. Thunderbird was built against something that the Mozilla foundation used to tout as the future of building software in general: XUL. And there also was a XULRunner which was to Gecko/Firefox what Electron is to Blink/Chrome: a way to develop native apps using the browser engine as a UI toolkit. The difference with electron is that it was built with more native-apps facilities, like spawning up Wizard dialogs: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Mozilla/Tech/XUL/Tu... All written in their XML.

It wasn't developed specifically for Thunderbird. Firefox is also built on top of the same technologies. XULRunner versions were released concurrently with new Firefox versions.

The reason why Thunderbird is a dead is because XUL is dead, or rather, will die soon. They are rewriting everything related to UI in Firefox and also terminating the traditional addon API which.. required XUL, in favor of Chrome's addon API.

Thunderbird is not the only notable app written in XUL beside Firefox. There's also Miro, Songbird, Google's adwords editor ( https://support.google.com/adwords/editor/answer/106323?hl=e... ) and many others.

Most software written in XUL has either been abandoned or going to die, anyway.

XUL was the future of old-school, heavy desktop applications. But people generally aren't interested in those anymore. At least HTML and the rest of the web stack work OK on mobile platforms.

> XUL was the future of old-school, heavy desktop applications.

The old-school, heavy desktop apps seem to be so unbelievably light in comparison to current electron-based craziness. But I guess we deserve all the bloat for not being able to come up with sensible common API for desktop development :(

Thunderbird didn't lose to an Electron-based app, it lost to Gmail.

Yes, but we're talking about XUL the platform. That platform was built with the same use-case in mind that Electron has: allowing people to build cross-platform desktop applications with web technologies (html, js etc).

Unfortunately Mozilla failed to execute on that vision, leaving the field open for Electron and friends to emerge. Part of that failure was due to bad technological choices (RDF-XML was terrible), part to the unwieldy Mozilla legacy (the build system was notoriously byzantine) and part to them de-prioritizing anything that Firefox did not need. They had a working general-purpose JS-based UI runtime more than 15 years ago, and still the rise of nodeJS and html-based toolkits passed them by pretty spectacularly - because they had eyes only for Firefox and vanity projects like FFOS.

But lots of people did write apps in XUL. My first IRC client and my first FTP client were both XUL apps. I'm not convinced that Electron today is any more popular than XUL was back then (aside from Atom (or VS Code, based on Atom), I can't name any programs that use Electron).

Additionally, XUL uses web tech, but it is not a standard and was never intended to be a standard (not even an informal specification exists AFAIK), so it's a stretch to say that Mozilla failed to execute on pushing XUL. What would the web gain by pushing it?

> I'm not convinced that Electron today is any more popular than XUL was back then

comex already named two highly popular ones (slack in particular can't be overlooked) but there are more. https://github.com/sindresorhus/awesome-electron


Outside of Slack, WhatsApp and Discord (see a pattern? pretty much all new chat apps are using it), I'm not sure if there's any other truly popular (among users) electron app, but among developers, electron definitely is popular and far more often used than XUL was. It's arguably more popular now for new apps than even toolkits like Qt and WxWidgets. People are writing, not one, but multiple competing implementations of things like.. unix terminal emulators in electron. These are not just webapps contained in chrome, they definitely need native access to local APIs. There's a frenzy among devs.

> so it's a stretch to say that Mozilla failed to execute on pushing XUL. What would the web gain by pushing it?

They didn't fail to "push it to the web". They failed to push it to app devs. They were rather enthusiastic at some point:


> Whether you need to migrate an existing web application to the desktop, are looking for a technology that will enable you to easily port your applications to multiple platforms, or want to integrate your own cool features into the browser, XUL warrants serious consideration.

And now they are arguably failing to push it to themselves as they're entirely abandoning it for Firefox and will rewrite the UI and extensions APIs to get rid of XUL.

> Outside of Slack

Slack has a standalone app? I've only ever used the web version. What more does it do?

> Discord

Likewise, I never even realized Discord had a non-browser implementation.

> WhatsApp

I never even realized that WhatsApp had a non-mobile implementation.

> they definitely need native access to local APIs

Which ones?

> And now they are arguably failing to push it to themselves

Er, the whole point of Mozilla is to champion standards-based web tech. They're rewriting their UI using CSS/HTML/JS because this is feasible today, whereas it wasn't in 2005. So I ask again, why would Mozilla want to retain XUL instead of making web technologies more powerful?

> Slack has a standalone app? [...] I never even realized Discord [...] I never even realized that WhatsApp [...]

But that's exactly how Electron and friends got popular: they allow for web-first development. Desktop support is a bonus for people who need it.

When Mozilla started working on XUL, the future of the web looked a lot like XML and fat clients. Applications would be built by desktop developers targeting the desktop in a way that would allow for the web to integrate in the background. They wanted to bring the web to the desktop, woo-hoo!

As it turns out, the opposite workflow won: applications are now built by web developers targeting the web, in a way that allows for desktops to come onboard where required. In this scenario, XUL is just too complicated for people who simply need "a web view with a couple of extra APIs". This is still "bringing the web to the desktop", the fundamental role of the runtime is exactly the same; but the paradigm is opposite to what Mozilla had envisioned.

> They're rewriting their UI using CSS/HTML/JS because this is feasible today

XULRunner/Gecko was already built on CSS and JS, but it lived in a desktop paradigm of pseudo-native widgets - because HTML interfaces were terrible back then. It wasn't even a performance issue, but rather that everything was a page refresh because nobody knew any better. AJAX had not been formalized, and XMLHttpRequest was used (guess what) to pull actual XML. HTML4 was considered a hack that was supposed to eventually go away. It wasn't a "this is not possible today" problem, but rather "why would anyone want that?". Already there were lots of arguments on whether JS was "good enough" for desktop development, whether CSS was too verbose, and so on...

> why would Mozilla want to retain XUL

XUL is battle-tested to a different level, having survived almost 20 years, and it's a better option for pure-desktop development than web views. If Mozilla had paid more attention to its evolution, rather than going on quixotic adventures like FFOS, maybe they could have competed with Electron-style apps. Alas, now it's probably too late.

> Electron and friends got popular

Maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy (I'm in my 20s, jfc), but I don't see how Electron's popularity is considered a given. I know plenty of people who use the given services, but none who use the desktop interfaces. VS Code is the only Electron app that I've ever seen used in the wild. Am I just hanging in the wrong crowds? Which ones should I be looking at, if so?

> It wasn't a "this is not possible today" problem

Hence "feasible" rather than "possible". :P (And conspicuously not "easy" rather than "feasible", either...)

> maybe they could have competed with Electron-style apps

I sound like a broken record by now, but I still don't see what people think Mozilla has to gain by offering a native GUI framework that people have already proven they don't want. And frankly, I think FirefoxOS, while ill-fated, was at least audacious. :P

> VS Code is the only Electron app that I've ever seen used in the wild. Am I just hanging in the wrong crowds?

Just to note: Atom is the original Electron app. I assume you've seen more people use that than Code.

> As it turns out, the opposite workflow won

Maybe for you, definitely not for me. Most of the applications I use daily are desktop ones and I'll refuse to install an electron one unless I have to.

His point was about the fad amongst developers (well, "developers"...), not users.

> Slack has a standalone app? I've only ever used the web version. What more does it do?

Chew up a bunch of RAM and glitch display compositing if my experience is typical.

My slack has been running for days now, and it's humming along at 50mb.

Electron is multi-process. If looking in Windows task manager, there will be the initial process at 50 Mb and then e.g. 7 more background processes.

That puts it at 250mb. That is quite a lot for a chat app.

> Likewise, I never even realized Discord had a non-browser implementation.

Can't give an answer on slack, as it's not something I use (and I wouldn't use any of the three services if I had a choice, but you don't get to make choices for entire communities as an individual and chat apps are about communities..), but I can say something about discord.

Custom keybindings, ability to do things like push to talk while you're in game, general integration with your OS desktop features (systemtray, native OS notifications), GUI that can overlay over your full-screen window ( like this: https://youtu.be/aVQyk_GX7aE?t=98 ) and probably other features I haven't paid attention to.

> I never even realized that WhatsApp had a non-mobile implementation.


Released in May, 2016.. and the webapp launched in 2015.

> Which ones?

Are you seriously asking that of terminal emulators that are supposed to be drop-in replacement for iTerm or Gnome Terminal and whatever else? how do you think your bash scripts can operate without breaking on your local data in a webapp without added native calls? I feel like I'm getting trolled here.

> Er, the whole point of Mozilla is to champion standards-based web tech. They're rewriting their UI using CSS/HTML/JS because this is feasible today, whereas it wasn't in 2005. So I ask again, why would Mozilla want to retain XUL instead of making web technologies more powerful?

So a great deal of selective quoting up till here while acting sassy and not paying attention to what was quoted to support the point yet still asking the question?

Why would they retain a competitive edge when other platforms like electron are attracting all the developers to enhance their application with native access goodness, why indeed.

I'll quote it again.

> Whether you need to migrate an existing web application to the desktop [...] or want to integrate your own cool features into the browser, XUL warrants serious consideration.

Is what Electron and Chrome actually do for people now, successfully, in droves and was an aspiration they had before. As for what is feasible now that wasn't before.. electron is not going away any time soon and webapps haven't replaced native. Even more so on mobile platforms, as 90% websites are begging you to install the app with full screen popups.

> still asking the question?

Yes, because the question isn't "how is this useful", it's "how is it in Mozilla's best interest to invest in this?" Mozilla came up with XUL because they wanted a cross-platform way to develop a large graphical application, and given that they're an open source organization they figured they might as well try to popularize the framework to hopefully get some volunteer contributions to the codebase. But XUL was never an end, only a means to an end, and the technology itself no longer has any strategic advantage.

As for "failing to execute" on taking over the world of desktop apps with XUL, I don't think Mozilla will lose any sleep over it. The secret sauce to Electron isn't Chromium, it's Node.js. We can say that Mozilla failed to execute the opportunity to popularize server-side Javascript first... but that's Rhino was for, and really, nobody in 2005 would have foreseen that developers would eventually want to write their backends in Javascript. :P

> Why would they retain a competitive edge when other platforms like electron are attracting all the developers to enhance their application with native access goodness, why indeed.

Be careful with generalizations, I am surely not part of that list and know quite a few others that want their computers Electron-free.

Slack and Riot.im use Electron; Signal's desktop app uses the soon-to-be-deprecated Chrome app platform and will probably end up on Electron (AFAIK). I refuse to use any of them, having been spoiled by IRC clients that can actually handle large message volumes without flopping over.

VS Code is not based on Atom.

It's built on Electron, which was created as the heart of Atom.

In an amusingly ironic twist though, Electron apps with their Javascript frontends also have byzantine and terrible build processes.

FWIW, and this is not make a point either way, Google Mail downloads about 14 MB, two thirds of which is JS. Most of that can be cached, though. It also uses 120 MB RAM after initial load, more as I click around. Figures as reported by the Firefox dev tools.

Because Google usually does a pretty good job as far as performance is concerned.

ie: They have a simple 404 page instead of some novelty page with funny text and a random webm playing in the background

Maybe different Google departments have different opinions about such things. Chrome's error pages include a game http://www.omgchrome.com/chrome-easter-egg-trex-game-offline

But performance-wise, the error pages still load instantly and don't waste CPU when the game isn't activated, so who cares?

...though I don't know why anyone would care about slow 404 pages either, given that they should be rarely visited and quickly left.

I know this might sound insane to everyone, just hear me out.

I always thought Mozilla should have built a Linux distribution (or rather, forked debian like everyone else ha!) and implemented their Firefox UI kit (Gecko right? I'm not as familiar.) and made a Front end for it that was smooth and easy to build apps for using web technologies, but could still run native *nix apps via debion packages.

I believe that now as much as I did when I was younger, but the itme for desktop OSs may have passed.

It would have been a hit I think. Well designed, well maintained, well documented. At least in my starry eyed version of this universe where unicorns exist

They tried that for mobile devices and failed. I doubt they'd have done any better on the desktop.

in my opinion, the last iteration of FFOS looked pretty good. Granted, apps were not there, no shocker. I thought they did a great job with it design wise though, and it had some neat features. I think if it was done 5 years ago it'd been a game changer for linux on the desktop.

I think you might be describing something fairly close to ChromeOS.

Yeah, except ChromeOS is shipped with ubuntu 15.04 i think, and its heavily modified, and you don't have regular access to the greater file system, and the front end isn't really rendered out from blink/chrome, i don't believe.

What definition of heavy are you using here? Because despite often being 'thin clients', most of the programs I run that embed HTML engines for the UI end up being stupendously resource-intensive compared to their native equivalents.

I think that your parent commentator is noting that people pretty much just stopped writing desktop apps altogether, at least relative to webapps. In my childhood I downloaded desktop apps left and right for everything, but nowadays I only download apps in two categories: developer tools and Steam games. E.g. something like http://hirnsohle.de/test/fractalLab/ would have invariably been a desktop app only a few years ago.

Aside from technical issues, native mail clients are shrinking in use over time, not growing.

It does not seem like the right place to invest to continue having relevance in the marketplace.

> native mail clients are shrinking in use over time, not growing.

I see that with my colleagues, who have Gmail (Gapps for domains) in one tab and OWA in another... instead of using a mail client with unified mailbox and not having tp look after which account has the message.

Yes, Apple Mail.app user here, who is not going to switch to webapp mail anytime soon.

Mozilla doesn't have to worry about the marketplace.

I disagree. Mozilla doesn't have a table at standards bodies or any sort of lever to make positive change on the internet without a healthy marketshare for its products.

(Context: I'm a submodule owner on Thunderbird, but haven't had much time to work on it lately. It should go without saying, but the comments below are my own view on the matter and shouldn't be considered authoritative.)

tl;dr: I think Mozilla has actually treated Thunderbird fairly well (but not quite as well as I'd like).

Thunderbird has been difficult for Mozilla to support for a while. In many ways, Thunderbird is only in as good a spot as it is because of people at Mozilla who still care about Thunderbird. There are lots of Gecko features that are used by Firefox and Thunderbird, and often, Gecko devs who make breaking changes to something Thunderbird uses will - if not fix the bug - at least alert the Thunderbird team of the breakage and point them in the right direction to fix it. They're also willing to support (some) stuff that only benefits Thunderbird, especially in the text editor. This can be hard for both teams though, like when Mozilla made huge changes to the Firefox build system; since Thunderbird imports the entire Firefox source tree, Thunderbird had to keep up or be unable to build.

As you can imagine, these difficulties will only be magnified by the (slow) move away from XUL. Worse, Thunderbird's codebase is pretty crufty and full of decisions that last seemed good over a decade ago (e.g. libmime's decision to create its own C-based object system instead of using C++ like the rest of Gecko[1]). It would take a lot of work to make the codebase not suck, and I'm not sure Thunderbird has ever had enough paid staff to do that in a reasonable timeframe. These architectural issues are the reason that message tabs in Thunderbird aren't actually multiplexed: every time you open a message tab, it actually just rearranges the elements from the single instance of the 3-pane layout to make it look right. (That's why scroll position in message tabs isn't preserved when you switch tabs.)

Thunderbird has also has significant difficulties finding a way to make money. Those who remember the Mozilla Messaging days (and the subsequent merge back into MoCo) might recall how that's when the team pushed for features like "Get a New Mail Account" (which has partnered mail providers who could sell users a fancy email address), "FileLink" (which has partners providing file hosting), and even a planned effort to do like Firefox and make money from search referrals (this fell through for some fairly strange partnership issues that I'm not sure I can talk about).

However, despite their general desire to discontinue financial support for Thunderbird, Mozilla (the Foundation, I believe) has opened up donations specifically for Thunderbird[2] which, as I understand it, gave the Thunderbird Council the ability to hire the first paid engineer on Thunderbird in several years[3]. In addition, Mozilla has worked to help Thunderbird find a new long-term home and has provided infrastructure support when they really don't need to do either.

While I think Mozilla should place a greater focus on email, I'm not sure Thunderbird is the best way to go about that, especially as Mozilla moves away from XUL. With the rise of Electron/Positron, something like glodastrophe[4] (based on the ill-fated Firefox OS email app) might have a better long-term outlook. However, trying to replicate all (or even most) of Thunderbird's features in a new application would be a huge effort and it's unclear whether the app would be popular enough to make all that effort worthwhile; I expect Mozilla would want to feel confident that they could use such an app to influence email/messaging standards.

I don't know what's going to happen in the long run, but as a Mozilla employee who started out working on Thunderbird, I still have a special place in my heart for it. I hope that one day Mozilla will be willing to revisit email, but it might take a while.

[1] https://dxr.mozilla.org/comm-central/source/mailnews/mime/sr... [2] https://donate.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/ [3] https://mail.mozilla.org/pipermail/tb-planning/2016-December... [4] https://github.com/asutherland/glodastrophe

We're getting closer and closer with Nylas Mail, although still have a long way to go!


(I work at Nylas)

Thanks for taking the time to provide your insight and especially for the link so that I can contribute directly towards continued Thunderbird development!

Gotta start contributing to TB now. Thanks for all the insight.

I cannot understand the need for a thing like Pocket. Much less why Mozilla prefers to keep it close, and even less for money.

I mean, what is wrong with bookmarks and sharing links? Firefox can even send tabs to other computers I got linked via ff sync.

Iterate on a bad idea, give it a social spin, and voilà! You have a sellable startup. Except you should not buy that.

Bookmarks-management sucks.

Pocket provides multi-platform access. And multi-browser access -- doesn't matter if I'm on Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE, whatevs, I can pull up Pocket.

Pocket strips all of today's utterly fucked, utterly useless, utterly counterproductive Web design. I cannot emphasize too much: Web design isn't the solution, Web design is the problem.

Offline reading. Pocket articles (via app) can be read when disconnected.

Tags. You can create, and cross-reference, tags between articles.

Scale. I've got ~3k - 4k articles on Pocket. Possibly more. (I'll get to that.) They're related to ongoing research, and the ability to find, classify, and relocate large amounts of material is useful.

Whilst Pocket doesn't have a ratings or workflow-related management, I've somewhat created these. A set of tags that relates to quality (rated 0 - 5, low to high, where 0 indicates negative information, 5 indicates a foundational document -- most content is a 2 or 3, and that's rating high. Books and scientific papers generally earn a '4': definitive or clarifying, though generally not foundational.

For workflow, I'm largely working with "readme" (a reminder to go back and read closely), and a set of tags related to specific writing projects. I need to come up with a more useful system.

Pocket also ... sort of and/or sometimes ... allows for full-text search within documents. This may have been a promotional-only feature.

Given that the Web as a whole is approaching uselessness under scope of search, the ability to look through a set of documents I've already at least partially vetted is tremendously useful.

There's a whole slew of things Pocket doesn't do, which I'll address in a top-level comment. I've shared these with the firm, though I've seen little or no progress on any of them in ages.

The "I'll get to that" point: * Pocket reports absolutely no user stats. * I've got no counts of tags, articles, read articles, time read, most-read, etc., etc., etc.

This desperately needs adding to the UI and tools.

Two big things: 1) it's a lot faster to send to Pocket with the button > mark as read than managing bookmarks IMO but the real killer feature for me is 2) the offline saving of articles. Pocket is killer when I'm commuting or without Wi-Fi because it means I can keep reading things without worrying about finding a hotspot or wasting my (very limited) data.

> Pocket is killer when I'm commuting or without Wi-Fi

... and yet this thread and every other Mozilla apologist thread is always filled with folks who suggest that it's no big deal to assume an always-on, always-available network connection.

Yeah, the problem with all these web apps is the lack of functionality when offline. Most just don't work, and some have a half working offline mode, but non-perfect connectivity or no connectivity really limits productivity today.

I'm a very heavy Pocket user. Here's how I use it. When I browse the web and see something I'd like to read, I hit the Pocket button in Firefox.

When I get home, I take out my Kobo eReader, which has Pocket built-in. It's very nice to read articles on an eInk display, without the distractions of an iPad or a computer.

They try to stay independent. They try to manage their resources. So they can still exist to be Mozilla in the future.

It's HARD.

Don't blame them from not being the perfect champion we used to idealize. They are doing everything they can.

To be fair Thunderbird is awful. Every single time I try to find a better client I see someone suggesting "oh Thunderbird has gotten way better; give it a shot! I love it!" and every time I fall for it and it's the same slow, horrible application that I've tried again and again.

I'm all for them killing it.

My 1K+ folders and millions of archived emails disagree with you. I've yet to find a client that works as well as Thunderbird with my massive email archive.

Why would it be slow? I can only type so fast and sending/receiving mail is mostly dependent on the connectivity, not on the software.

I recently downloaded TB to move some offline mbox emails of large quantity. TB became increasingly slow processing few thousand. I downloaded Opera Mail to do the same exact work. I was done within few hours.

I have a need for more people to repeat the same process. There's zero chance I'll be asking them to download TB.

TB by default saves 1x file per folder (e.g. MBox like) -

This means depending on your storage configuration and how you use folders, potentially writing 100MB, 1G, 10G, etc. back to disk on folder content change.

For batch processing though, I use the CLI tools - thunderbird is view/compose only (procmail/formail/archivemail/offlineimap,etc)

I was hitting performance probs on bigger folders, and setup some more strict archiving to archive older mails to subfolders/zap offline using an 'archivemail' job, etc, and the problem went away, with TB being quite snappy.

as I understand it there was some effort to support 1-file-per-email, which might be an option now, but this has it's problems too.

Outlook has it's PST corruption hell...

Basically, in my opinion, email is a pain, each client shows it differently, though I am admittedly not up to speed on Opera Mail.

Thunderbird sets up a full-text index to allow you to search your emails. This eats up a bit of time while importing large mailboxes but is quite handy once it is done.

I tried that (I googled to see what am I missing) didn't help.

How does KMail perform for that? I never had trouble with its performance, though I don't think I ever quite made it into the millions of emails.

Thunderbird searches can be quite slow.

> My 1K+ folders and millions of archived emails disagree with you.

You seem to be attempting to address just the slowness of my complain and not its overall awfulness. Start-up time, loading each email; I've never seen it work very fast it always has that android-like lag throughout the entire thing. It also doesn't feel native to whatever OS you're using it in almost like using a Swing app.

The UX is just awful.

Well, maybe I'm just used to it. I tried many other email clients and other than text mode ones it is the best I've found so far (Linux, Debian).

Have you tried Sylpheed? It's a lightweight, open source email client for Windows and Mac OS. I am using the Windows version. The installer is a mere 8mb in file size. I switched from Thunderbird to Sylpheed and am very happy with it so far.


Question, does Sylpheed have a calendar like Outlook or Thunderbird+Lightning?

The problem is that there aren't exactly a lot of other great FOSS standalone email applications these days. Everything's been neglected because of webmail, and corporations' dogged insistence on Outlook.

So if you think Thunderbird should be killed, what do you suggest as a replacement? It needs to be free, and run on Windows for my company to use it.

Not free, but Postbox is pretty great. It is a continuation of Thunderbird. By former Thunderbird engineers if I am not mistaken.


Might be pretty great but it's Windows/macOS only, so not sure how much of a continuation of thunderbird it can be considered.

Claws Mail is a good option.

If you're using Linux, try Geary.

The only thing that forces me to keep Thunderbird around are mailing lists. I haven't found anything else that doesn't break quoting or messes with word/line wrapping in plaintext mails. To be fair, even Thunderbird requires quite a bit of about:config tuning to get it to behave sanely.

I suppose I'll have to learn to live with mutt eventually.

IMO, mutt is the best mail client there is when it comes to lots of high-volume mailing lists. I can catch up on all my lists so much quicker than with any other mail client.


Mutt is the only way I can keep up with my mail volume. The only time the UI doesn't react instantly is when it loads huge mailboxes. And it still does that faster than I've seen graphical clients load the same mailbox.

Add to that pretty much infinite customization, and it does indeed suck less.

If you have to deal with large amounts of mail for pretty much whatever reason, you can do it faster with mutt than with any other client I've ever used. Yes, there is a learning curve. It isn't a vim-style learning curve, but it is there. But if you're considering a command line MUA at all, you can handle it.

Totally unrelated, but I keep falling for this same cycle of disappointment based on testimonials for The Simpsons.

I just hope you realize when people say the Simpsons are good, they mean seasons 1-{8-12}.

Every single time anyone complains about Thunderbird I ask myself wtf they are doing with this mail client.

I use Thunderbird on MacOs and on Linux. On Linux its a fine email client, no complaints at all. On Mac it's a pile of shit that randomly hangs for 10+ seconds (and eats my battery) because I have a combined inbox.

There's a bunch of config tweaks that are supposed to help but so far they haven't.

I wasn't even aware it had a Mac version but since you and me had no problems with it on X and I have no problems with it on Win, are all those complainers Apple users and should that undermine the otherwise good product? I don't think so.

My experience using thunderbird on linux is that it's a decent mail client, but I've found it corrupts its search index every few months. Rebuilding the index with my mailbox takes several days.

Also, sometimes it'll just not find certain messages. That also means it's time to clear out and rebuild indexes.

This has been my experience every time I use thunderbird, over many years. I'm not sure what it is about my mailbox that makes me see these issues when others don't.

It's a good program but could use some maintenance loving.

Thunderbird is awful, but I have yet to find anything better.

So did you find a better client?

Slow? Hmm...are you sure it isn't your server that's slow?

The speed of a desktop UI client shouldn't be related to how quick the server is.

I imagine he was talking about IMAP?

I was recently looking for desktop email clients and there is literally not a single free alternative? Cant be that awful if it's the only one.

Mailbird is pretty awesome. Been using for a year now.

If you like thunderbird theres postbox developed from thunderbird

I use opera mail client. It's quite decent. I switched from thunderbird.


It would be great to have a new modern open source email app on iOS, Android and desktop OS. I want a GMail app clone (conversation view), but open source (= doesn't phone home to the creator) that works with IMAP.

Vivaldi browser (unofficial Opera successor) is working on an HTML5 powered email app, though will it be open source?

On Android there is open source K9Mail app but it's pretty old fashion, no conversation view.

I envision a new lean Mozilla browser (like Firefox was to Mozilla Suite back then) based on Rust powered Servo-HTML-engine and a HTML based UI. Additionally an email app addon would fit in my vision.

Ive thought the same thing. This is pure speculation on my part, but I wonder if they...how do you say this nicely...I wonder if they are holding on to what they were? In their approach I mean. Like they think they are still fighting with Google? So they make decisions trying to get back to that "leader position" rather than really focusing on who and what they are...which is an awesome, creative, international open-source community with great ideas...that can out maneuver any large corporation because they are smaller and faster. And cooler. Then again, maybe this rebranding is evidence of exactly that realization.

I was pretty shocked when I learned they had more than 1000 employees.

If Thunderbird is going to stop being developed, what should I use instead? I like having the add-ons, and use the Calendar with Office 365 Enterprise stuff, and Google Calendar.

Oh, what a twist!

In a story that began two years ago with Pocket's integration by Mozilla [1] in Firefox [2], large segments of the userbase spoke out with scathing criticism.

This, at first blush, appears unrelated: Mozilla previously announced its Context Graph initiative, which was a bold undertaking to be built partially upon a new and emerging set of W3C standards to take back some of the control over linkage, metadata, and the consumption and annotation of web content [3] from big incumbent providers who run content portals, content silos, or content aggregators (largely the usual suspects, including Google, Facebook [4], Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo [5]).

To understand this play, temporarily forget about Mozilla the Foundation, and think about Mozilla as a strategic competitor to the above. In the case of Pocket, a hard-to-deny side effect is that Pocket's presence in Firefox, despite the exact nature of the integration, is likely here to stay. While this is bound to frustrate many, Mozilla's competitors routinely ship software or entire platforms with tight captive integrations, against which competition has proven difficult to mount solely on the merits of values and philosophical purity.

[1] https://hn.algolia.com/?query=firefox%20pocket [2] https://hn.algolia.com/?query=mozilla%20pocket [3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13729525#13740110 [4] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13375451#13375917 [5] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12863565#12867493

My only problem with Pocket was that it was proprietary and it was integrated with Firefox. If it's released under and open source license, then I'll be glad to have it integrated.

Pocket makes Mozilla competitive on mobile because Firefox's market share on mobile is very low.

The client-side portion of Pocket has always been open-source.

If you mean the server-side then fair enough, maybe this acquisition will help with that.

It looks like their Firefox addon has (https://github.com/Pocket/pocket-ff-addon), and I guess by definition you can get the source of their Chrome addon and getpocket.com, but I don't think they meet the definition of open source unless they're somewhere other than Github. Also their mobile apps seem to be closed source too.

The built-in Pocket feature is an addon that is pre-installed into Firefox:


Yeah, but there's for example also a Pocket Android app and iOS app. Those should get open-sourced now, too, and I heavily doubt that they were before.

I agree!

Submitting links to Pocket is open source and has always been well documented, but other client-side portions of Pocket have always been closed, such as the Article View API. [1]

It would be great to have access to article view to build other clients, such as a Linux client.

1: https://getpocket.com/developer/docs/v3/article-view

Pocket will be open sourced.

Is there any official source for this?

I don't think this counts as official, but a Mozilla employee replied to a Reddit comment stating that it'll be open source too.


[edit] also nnethercote is a Mozilla employee :)

Does that mean I can run my own pocket server at home? That'd be neat and useful, I don't need any more profiling as is.

Wow, that will include a Linux client because Pocket also runs on the Kobo eReader. I'm curious if they open source that one. It should be doable to port to desktop Linux.

"If it's released under and open source license, then I'll be glad to have it integrated."

Not me. I don't want a bloated Firefox; even if the bloat is well intentioned and fully open sourced.

One person's bloat is another person's critical feature. Are you thinking of install size, runtime cost, all of the above?

Firefox is open-source and (fairly) easy to build - if you really want the utmost control then I'd suggest this is the best way to do it. You can easily do a build that has no Pocket integration.

There's a cost to the level of configuration that I assume you're advocating here. Not saying we can't get better here, but there's definitely an impact on code complexity, QA test combinations, and stability.

I don't like bloat in web browsers because, often, if just adds features best left as an add-on. Also, in something as important as a web browser, I feel a smaller codebase is wise from a security point-of-view.

I agree in principle, although in practice allowing Firefox add-ons to be fully equivalent to other features has been a detriment to security, stability and performance - hence the switch to WebExtensions (which rely on stable APIs purposely exposed by Firefox).

Having the codebase be as small as possible is a laudable goal - with browsers it is difficult since Web standards are fairly complex on their own, and being cross-platform brings along a lot of weirdness.

An important aspect of security is compartmentalization - for instance, using separate sandboxed processes for web content vs. the main UI (which runs with full user privileges).

Sandboxing is a good example here since it improves perf/stability/security but also adds to the size and complexity of the code.

I agree in principle, although in practice allowing Firefox add-ons to be fully equivalent to other features has been a detriment to security, stability and performance

Only in an abstract "we might have been able to implement security/performance improvements faster if we wouldn't have had to worry about breaking addons" sense. Any other effects are restricted to those people actually using the addon and don't affect everyone else.

A powerful extension interface can also be used to improve performance/stability: while e.g. adblocking certainly doesn't come for free, its cost should be more than offset by not running all that crappy code pulled from ad networks.

This was actually one of the arguments for feature shredding things like browser customization (see Classic Theme Restorer) and tab groups (see uhm Tab Groups).

> One person's bloat is another person's critical feature.

That's what extensions are for. Those who want it, can have it, those who don't, they won't. Everybody wins, no need to raise emotions.

I'm so confused with the HN comments that bemoan the death of XUL, alongside comments that complain about bloat in the browser. It's interesting to see how different people use different parts of Firefox differently.

I know! I often see comments that imply HN is homogenous (with the exception of the poster). There's a lot of different people that make up the HN community, which is one of its strengths, and one of the reasons I value it.

"large segments of the userbase spoke out with scathing criticism"

Actually .. no. It was a very vocal minority.

You're right, I misspoke; I meant to say several audiences out of a larger pie of distinct cohorts; instead of using wording that implied a large absolute amount of people.

In the past, I've written about [1][2] my views of Mozilla's audiences, and soon after, Mozilla's own internal audiences [3] were brought to my attention. Several of their 'user types' are either noted as averse to change or loss of control.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13425956 [2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12192509#12194161 [3] https://blog.mozilla.org/ux/2013/08/firefox-user-types-in-no...

Something I've always wished Pocket would do is download an offline copy of videos I add to the list (using, say, youtube-dl [1]), so I can watch them on the subway, etc. But they never did this, presumably either for legal reasons, or because it was a giant waste of bandwidth considering a huge percentage of Pocketed articles never get read.

Now that Mozilla is promising to open-source this, I eagerly await adding this feature to my own fork :)

-- [1]: https://rg3.github.io/youtube-dl/

If you're on Android, I've found a set of tricks which work for this pretty well.


1. Termux App.

2. Termux API App.

3. Termux CLI utilities. apt install termux-api

4. Python: apt install python

5. youtube-dl: pip install youtube-dl

6. VLC App. Install from app store.

7. A set of shell functions for clipboard and application access:

    alias xc='termux-clipboard-set'
    alias xp='termux-clipboard-get'
    open () 
        termux-share "$@"
I'll generally download videos to the Download folder, which I've symlinked from the Termux home directory:

   lrwxrwxrwx 1 u0_a204 u0_a204 29 Apr 26  2016 Download -> /storage/emulated/0/Download/
Oh, and how did I get those functions and aliases?

    (alias | egrep x[cp]; typeset -f open) | sed s/^/ / | xc
(Pre-formatted for HN's code block.)

With all of that, you can download and play, in one swell foop, a video (assuming you know the output format you prefer -- something you can set as a youtube-dl preference):

    open $( youtube-dl -f 18  "$(xp)" | awk -F':' '/Destination/ {print $2}' )
Or you can fetcha whole slew of content and queue it up on VLC.

I'd still prefer to be able to use a commandline audio player with controls rather than the GUI client. There's a very simple "play-audio" command, but it has no controls -- <ctrl>-C to end is about it, even backgrounding doesn't actually stop playback.

I've messed with the sox "play" command, but it doesn't have an assigned audio device, and I've been unable to convince it that such a thing exists (see StackExchange posts regarding Android for similar issues/discussions).

Seconding this for macOS. If you haven't installed Homebrew, do so: https://brew.sh/

Then install youtube-dl as follows:

  $ brew install youtube-dl
And download videos as follows:

  $ youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ"

The lack of a true, independent, freestanding multimedia application which can handle this sort of thing -- building and managing queues, interrupting, deleting, sorting, etc. -- puzzles me.

The browser is such an obviously poor place to stick A/V. Other than, of course, the fact that advertisers slobber over cramming every more crap down some "channel" or other.

Well, Google has a history of preferring HTML above all other interfaces. Only when someone else comes along and offers a better native interface, they jump in.

Thank god there's a native iOS/Android client.

It's not the transport that's the problem, it's the app.

Meredith L. Patterson has addressed the point of Port 80 (or 443) adequately. For the time being, we're locked into that.

My point is that handing of A/V material to a dedicated AV app is, all else considered, probably optimal. It's the 4th browser replacement mentioned in my "Tabbed Browsing" rant, elsewhere in this thread.

I've played a bit with terminals on Android, but I only had real success using ssh. This seems very convenient, I'll play around with termux, thanks!

BTW, I'm unable to access /storage/emulated/0, it seems Termux doesnt have permission (and the app doesnt list it in its permissions). Is your phone rooted?

I've attempted rooting the phone, but don't believe I've succeeded. One of my major gripes about the whole Android ecosystem (and a massively significant one). Samsung Tab A.

I've just confirmed though that I can create and delete files on /storage/emulated/0/ YMMV, is all I can say.

It also kind of sucks with javascript when it downloads the page offline. Pages that use Mathjax or something for LaTeX never display correctly so I can enver read them offline :/

This problem got solved when YouTube started allowing offline videos. Idk if it is available in your country, but in India you don't need to be a paying customer to save offline videos.

India usually get those offline features much more faster than other countries for some reason.

I wish we had these options in Canada, because mobile bandwidth is stupidly expensive over here.

> India usually get those offline features

This is because Internet in India sucks

... plus with a population of ~1.25 billion people, it's an incredibly large market to overlook.

That's only on mobile afaik. How do you deal with it on the desktop?

On macOS, do something like this:

  $ brew install youtube-dl

On macOS, the following works as well:

    $ pip install youtube-dl
even if you don't use brew. Python is there out of the box.

There are many apps that do that. A Pocket competitor, Spool, used to that. It was then acqui-hired by Facebook and shutdown. At least they had the decency of sending us our data by email.

You could script this with a bookmarking service like pinboard.in (anything with an API) and a cron job.

See Youtube red.

Youtube Red is not available in most of the world:

> available in the United States, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and South Korea.

I guess they'll have to wait.

My conscience is assuaged by the fact that I am already paying for Google Play Music, which would include YouTube Red at no additional cost, if I lived a few miles away on the other side of the Canada-USA border.

And anyway, despite the name, youtube-dl supports a whole lot more than just YouTube.

That's a paid service. Youtube-DL is free and open source.

It is YouTube's prerogative to offer that feature for their paid service.

And it's the user's prerogative to build and use tools to circumvent artificial[1] limitations.

[1]: reminder: technically, streaming isn't different from download, what your computer does when watching a video in streaming is downloading. Forcing users to delete the video they have downloaded (which is exactly what's happening with streaming) so they pay the premium service for off-line use, is not a legitimate way to do business. They can do it of course, if people are willing to pay for something they can have for free it's fine, but people who don't want to pay aren't doing anything wrong.

> is not a legitimate way to do business.

You're not the arbiter of this.

> but people who don't want to pay aren't doing anything wrong.

Not wanting to pay isn't wrong. Circumventing the Youtube's restrictions is though.

> Circumventing the Youtube's restrictions is though.

That's exactly my point: it's not.

It may be bad for Youtube's business, but it's not morally wrong. We owe nothing to Google.


Look at 5b. Downloading Youtube videos, except with Youtube Red, is a breach of contract.

Breaking contract is wrong.

> Downloading Youtube videos, except with Youtube Red, is a breach of contract.

Too bad, then every single user of Youtube is violating this rule: the browser needs to download the video to play it, streaming is just the act of automatically removing the video chunk after it's played. I don't seen written anywhere that the user is forbidden to prevent the deletion of the video chunk he downloaded.

Even if Youtube updated its rules to fill this loophole, I would still be allowed to do it. In France people are protected by «l'exception de copie privée» which allow them to have their own copy of video or music which their are legally allowed to see/listen.[1] That's why we are allowed to record TV broadcast. I guess there must be a similar law in the US but I'm not really aware of the regulation there.

[1] sharing the video with somebody outside of your family is forbidden though.

What restrictions?

It sure is their prerogative. It's unfortunate their paid service is not available to most of the world.

So is the user's prerogative to use their downloaded content in any way they want, in this case not consuming immediately but saving for later.

> So is the user's prerogative to use their downloaded content in any way they want, in this case not consuming immediately but saving for later.

It's not their (the user's) content.

Pocket, for me, is a weird product/feature. I've tried to use it, but it ends up just being like a clumsy bookmarking feature.

Allegedly, you can read things offline, but that feature never works for me. It seems the feature for offline reading doesn't exist at all in Firefox (which I'd assumed was the point of its integration, but my assumption was wrong), and I've tried the Chrome desktop app and the Android mobile app ..nothing I save to pocket is ever readable without a data connection. It must work for some content for some people because I see people talking about it like it does. But, without that feature I see literally no utility in Pocket...it's just a clunky bolted-on bookmark manager, and so I end up going back to bookmarks with tags. I use Sync and I have Firefox on all of my devices. So, my bookmarks go with me.

So, I guess it's good that it's going open source. I wasn't comfortable with the way integration was presented back when they added it...it wasn't at all apparent, to me, that Pocket was a third party for-profit entity when the "setup your pocket" process launched in Firefox, since I'd never heard of it before that. But, it still seems like a solution looking for a problem. I'll give it another look. Maybe I was just unlucky with my choices of what to save...but it seems like if offline reading is not going to work on a page (for whatever reason) it should warn you. It'd suck to get on a train/plane or get lost in the woods, with plans to catch up on some reading, only to find there's nothing there.

But, maybe that's not even the primary purpose of Pocket? I dunno, it's still pretty fuzzy to me wtf it's for, if not that.

> Allegedly, you can read things offline, but that feature never works for me.

Strange, because that is the main use case I use in Pocket. I save article there, and it stores it for offline reading, striping all formatting. It isn't a bookmark manager, it stores stuff and doesn't need internet to read it.

My experience has been GP's: Pocket will claim to save something, but the moment I go offline, it craps out and tells me I need a connection to read the content I've saved.

This is much more common on larger PDFs, but I've had it happen on so many sites that there was a point when I literally resorted to PDF'ing the pages I wanted to save - which is a damn shame, because Pocket's reader view really does do a good job.

Pocket doesn't store videos or pdf's offline. Only HTML articles with the formatting stripped.

I used to use Poki on windows phone and never experienced any issues. But since moving to iOS I often add stuff to pocket only to realise it hasn't auto synced or that I forgot to download before getting on the plane. The experience isn't that great IMO :(

If I remember to open pocket on my phone before flying I don't have issues.

The Kobo ereaders have had Pocket integration for a while now, and it works great offline. My usual routine is to find interesting articles on Hacker News, and if they are longer than a page or two, click the Pocket button and read them at home on the ereader. A few don't render well (the article on Arrival/Story of your Life not being a time-travel story was a recent fail), but generally it works great.

I love this feature. My only concern was being tied into Pocket and wondering what might happen to the company. I imagine that being acquired by Mozilla makes that future a bit more secure.

the article on Arrival/Story of your Life not being a time-travel story was a recent fail

Loved the book / movie but haven't read that article. Do you have the link? Thanks.

It isn't all that obvious how the offline function works - which is a shame. I've been caught without offline availability for some articles I saved.

The main thing with the work-around is that you need to start Pocket on your phone while you have a data connection so that the articles are on the phone. There may be an option to automatically download the articles, but I've never found it. After the one-time data connection, it comes up offline.

This is the case when I save from the computer and view them on my phone (or different device, I guess, but I've not checked a different computer). Your luck may vary.

Turn on "Instant Sync" and new additions will be added to your app asap.

Also check your download settings. If set to "download only on wifi" then the app won't download if you're on mobile networks. You can also set the "refresh when opened" option to sync everything when the app is first loaded.

> The main thing with the work-around is that you need to start Pocket on your phone while you have a data connection so that the articles are on the phone.

Hmm, I always found this to be obvious, and not a work-around. How else would they entered the phone?

I would not expect to have to open the app. I can set my podcast manager to download episodes automatically -- I don't need to remember to open the app while I'm on data.

I've always liked Pocket, but felt queasy about its integration with Firefox.

I consider this a great move for a better bookmarking experience in Firefox as well as a better pocket service.

Couldn't agree with you more, I absolutely love both of the brands and use their products regularly, but the Pocket integration into Firefox itself is something I always considered a bad move from the principles perspective. At least including it now makes much more sense.

It is ridiculous though. Mozilla already had a sync infrastructure, it didn't need another service just for bookmarks, "only" a decent additional UI.

To me, the whole Pocket thing always smelled of cronyism. Someone is friend with someone else, and lo, Pocket appears. People get all angry, Pocket's hockey-stick fails to materialise, and lo, Mozilla bail them out...

Not only that, but the original Read-It-Later extension did exactly that: it stored links directly in Firefox's bookmarks system in a "Read-It-Later" folder. Only later did it begin using its own, separate database.

Or in a less negative spin, acqui-hire a group of people you already know you enjoy working together with.

I don't think that there would have been that many other suitors for pocket, so depending on how close they were to just closing the price might be extremely low (or are any numbers making the rounds?). Maybe there is not much acqui in the hire, could have been more like a deal between founders and investors, "allow me to take the brand with me to my future employer".

This is far more powerful than just bookmarks. Pocket succeeded in getting clients everywhere, even on eReaders.

I agree. For example, you can't really see a list of what you pocketed unless you go to their webpage. Or if you want to be able to read them offline, you need to download the Pocket application. I wish all was integrated in Firefox. It's 2017 and a browser needs this and tabs on the side by default.

You can have tabs on the side via an addon. Here: https://testpilot.firefox.com/experiments/tab-center

It kinda sucks compared to tree style tabs though :/

The old discontinued extension did exactly this. It had oflline, integrated into sidebar and displayed if you already have added link to pocket.


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact