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So, That’s It For Thunderbird (techcrunch.com)
192 points by hornokplease on July 6, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 190 comments



I'm not sure why this is a problem, really. E-mail is e-mail, and the great thing about it is that it's been e-mail for years and it will still be e-mail in many years' time.

Thunderbird is a decent native e-mail client. It does its job well enough already. IME, it's been stable and robust for a while now. Lightning is fine for basic calendar needs these days, too. Mozilla have hardly done anything significant to this whole area for a long time anyway, and short of some new protocol being developed or something like signed/encrypted mail becoming the norm, I don't see that the tools require a lot of ongoing development either.

I'd be far more interested in improvements to Firefox or, if we're talking about messaging, in having some kind of lightweight Exchange replacement with the same kind of ease-of-use so I don't have to configure a million text files on a Linux box to get a basic mail/calendar/contacts store set up. Personally, I trust the likes of Google (or any other data-driven/ad-funded freebie service) about as far as I can throw them, and they'll host my e-mail when they pry the keyboard from my cold, dead hands. :-)


Lightning is not really "fine" - it never properly worked for me properly. Integrating it with Exchange is a nightmare. It is sad that it was never brought to a level where you could confidently recommend it as Outlook replacement, and now it never will be.


[deleted]


Mail.app on both OS X as well as iOS is pretty fantastic, though not being cross-platform isn't a "keeper-honest-er".

You seem to also forget mutt, which, while substantially less useful, quite clearly does not suck.


Mail.app is way behind Thunderbird. On TB, I can do tags, I can do message flags, I can do search folders, I have 9000 ways of searching, I can add quick folders, I have great antispam engine... Mail.app is ok if you receive 1-2 emails per day and never need them afterwards. If you receive 300 and need to be able to find each of them years since, it is not even close to being adequate, let alone fantastic.


I have about 1 GB of personal email, going back to 2003, on an IMAP server. Mail.app searches this basically instantly—I get results well under a second. At work I have well under 100 MB of mail going back about 3 years, and Thunderbird won't give me the first result for about 10 seconds. The idea that Mail.app can't keep up with Thunderbird is absurd. I'd take Mail.app any day over Thunderbird.

I'm saddened by Mozilla's decision, because though I like mutt, I unfortunately live in the current decade and work with humans who are prone to sending HTML email, and Thunderbird has been the best Linux option for a while. I hope the KMail or Sylpheed people gain some development effort, because either one could be really good if it just had a few more developers.


>I unfortunately live in the current decade and work with humans who are prone to sending HTML email

More precisely, you work with humans who are unwilling or unable to configure their webmail accounts not to send HTML email because the webmail service providers make it hard to configure the accounts that way because that configuration reduces their ability to sell advertisements.


We have a company-provided mail setup so this isn't it at all. It's just the classic HR department liking lilac-colored Comic Sans for their email text problem.


Ah.


The Mail.app searching now is so fast, it's bordering the incredible. It's made me rethink the way I archive e-mail. I really no longer need to sort everything into monthly folders in order to find things.

The 9000 ways of searching things in Thunderbird are not always an advantage, I found it makes it really hard for me to find things, because I have to select so many things. The searching of Mail.app makes me get what I want within 2 seconds for 95% of the cases. If it doesn't there's usually a sensible drop-down suggestion of where to search (body, subject, recipient, sender). And if that does not help you, you can always use the system-wide Spotlight to drill down even further.

I've moved from Thunderbird to Mail.app about a year ago, and have been pleasantly surprised. I'm a pretty heavy mailer, receiving hundreds of mails a day and sending out 30-50. I also search my archives regularly and that has not been a problem.

I've not tried filtering into folders, but your mailserver should do that for you anyway.


I love Thunderbird. I use Thunderbird. I want Thunderbird to survive and be successful. But I've never actually been able to make full use of things like flags, smart folders, or the built-in anti-spam because it's all local to a single computer. Those benefits don't follow me to my phone, or to a friend's house, or between my laptop and desktop.

We either need more extensions to IMAP (but what clients would support them?) or we need better web apps.


Not being able to teach the server about spam is really a big shortcoming. I have it on my todo list for years now... Apparently there even exist standard protocols for that, perhaps there are already plugins for TB that can do that? And of course the server has to play along, too.


This is all true, however Mail.app - which I was commenting about - is no better in this regard AFAIK.


I went a bit off track, but I did want to make a relevant point: For my use case, the features you enumerated aren't competitive advantages because they're locked away in a single client on a single machine. Thus, for me, there are entire classes of features where native clients can't innovate, because I can't rely on those features being available in more than one place.

So from my perspective, Mail.app isn't "way behind" Thunderbird. Rather, they're at parity, and Thunderbird has a lot of other stuff that I can't use.


It won't help you with your phone, but isn't there a version of thunderbird on portableapps.com? These install and keep their data on a USB stick, so you can take it with you between desktop, laptop, work and friends' computers (no install needed).

Edit: might be windows only, though.


Have you used Mail.app on OSX recently? It has most of those things. SmartFolders are the same as search folders I assume. There's a fast/robust search system with saved search queries. QuickFolders (the extension?) sounds kind of like the favorites you can add to the toolbar for specific folders/people/searches. You can flag messages in a few different ways plus color labels if you want to get fancy. Not suggesting you should switch or anything -- just defending an app I like a lot.


IMO it doesn't have most features of his list. It has ALL. And all of them implemented way better than TB. Searching E-Mails? Isn't TB still the application with two different convoluted interfaces for in-folder and all-folder search? Mail.app's search interface is absolutely brilliant in comparison. Even its Spamfilter is pretty decent, nothing like what OP described.


Yes, I was wrong about SmartFolders - this Mail.app has covered. No idea what you mean by favorites though - I don't see any such option, same for different labels. Maybe it's some new Lion version that added that?


Yeah I think that's new in Lion. The flagging feature is a little half baked since you can only pick from preset color labels. If there's a way of renaming them to something more descriptive I have no clue how to do it.


Mail.app has no problem searching and indexing all of my mail since 1998 (nearing 20 GB). I'm not sure what you are doing wrong... upgrade to an SSD maybe?


I didn't say it has problem searching, I said it has less options to do searches.


It doesn't though. OS X Mail uses Spotlight, meaning you can use Boolean operators and everything. It also has Smart Folders, for search queries you repeat often.

http://email.about.com/od/macosxmailtips/qt/How-To-Use-Mac-O...


Evolution can replace Exchange on the client side.


I just noticed today that Thunderbird was using 300 MB of my RAM, and was surprised at how bloated it had gotten. I was going to blog about how my 2012 computer feels as snappy as my 2002 computer because of these sorts of things, but I didn't get around to it.

There must be a good case to be made about light, responsive software. From the other posters here, I take it there's no light alternative to Thunderbird, and I'll keep using it, but 300 MB of RAM for an email client is a bit ridiculous.


What I've never understood is what exactly makes a computer snappy. My RAM is never fully used, CPU percentage often in the single digits, Solid state drive - still I feel like it could be snappier. I wonder where the deficit is?


The deficit is software. Hardware has gotten crazy fast, but software is struggling to make use of that speed in ways that are valuable to average users (e.g. reducing perceived latency).

At the risk of stating the obvious, a computer feels snappy when it responds to user actions (clicks, keypresses) quickly. That is a holistic problem -- one that concerns all parts of the system -- so it's hard to optimize. Software tends to evolve "within the lines"; it's hard to make changes that cross abstraction boundaries. But that's where performance is.

On the other hand, hardware has gotten faster unevenly. Disk seeks are the slowest thing your computer does besides WAN access, but those haven't sped up much over the last decade. Disk throughput (and size) have increased orders of magnitude faster than seek time.

But we're still using the same software abstractions (and the same software!) for these radically different machines. For example, stat() is still a synchronous call. In the old days it wasn't all that slow relative to CPU operations. Now it can take 30ms, which is 30,000,000 cycles on a 1 Ghz CPU. So arguably the default should be async.

C is another abstraction that had a reasonable performance model when it was invented, but no longer does. It's hard for the average developer to have a decent (portable) model of a CPU these days, especially with regard to concurrency.


I generally agree, but would present a specific software-architecture cause for most responsiveness issues: the simplest way to perform a UI update is "toss and rebuild" - remove all the elements and replace them with new ones containing changes. This method is straightforward and much more maintainable than the performant alternative: hold everything in place and manipulate the minimum needed to update.

It's a particularly important trade-off as you start considering, for example, more complex layouts where the size and positioning of one element may affect any number of others, elements get added or removed, etc. There's a spectrum of variations between these two extremes that let you choose between maintainable and fast, but neither end really has an ideal combination of both. Language and coding style changes can help, too, but a truly complete solution still seems absent.

The initial load is the second major source of peril for responsiveness. Even if a custom cache for the load is used, the user's first-run impression is still going to be of an uncached experience. Here the disk seek, as you mention, is of huge importance. But I find that I'm personally less irritated by load times than I am by software with intermittent spikes of high CPU usage, which will slow down the whole system at unexpected moments.


Well, I agree that there are specific program architectures that can cause problems, but I haven't had the experience where "toss and rebuild" is the bottleneck.

One of the other responses nailed what is a more common problem IME -- network activity and UI activity on the same single-threaded event loop. Firefox and Chrome both have this problem (or what amounts to it essentially). For example, in Chrome:

http://code.google.com/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=113389

This bug has gone unfixed for YEARS (older ones were marked dupes of later ones).

The way we write software now is just too difficult to get right. Once you have 1M lines of C++ code there are going to be crazy performance bugs that nobody can fix. Chrome has some of the best engineers on the planet and they're not immune to this by any means.

I guess I would amend my original answer to say that "software size" is the problem. Everybody thinks they know how to write performant software. But that's only when you can fit everything in your head.

I would say that "toss and rebuild" isn't the #1 culprit because the web browser is the ultimate "toss and rebuild" architecture -- that is, every request and response stand alone. Yes web pages can be ungodly slow and unresponsive. But it's possible to make them responsive if you really simplify -- i.e. Google or craigslist.

In theory we could have a stateful web and make it faster. But I think our collective programming skill and our languages/tools just aren't up to the task. I think the web exists as it is, and is as popular as it is, because lots of people with "domain knowledge" could write dirty PHP scripts and such. They aren't fast but they get the job that users want done.


The apparent lack of responsiveness we see with a lot of modern software is usually a product of three factors.

Firstly, architectures today tend to be multitasking and event-driven. A modern GUI application is usually built around an “event loop” that waits for various interesting things to happen, such as the user pushing a key or clicking a mouse, reaching a certain time, or receiving a signal from an external device. When an event of interest takes place, the relevant part of the loop will detect it next time around, and then run the relevant code to react.

However, if that code takes a significant amount of time to run, then the event loop won’t have a chance to react to anything else that is going on until the last event is dealt with. The catch is that things like repainting your application window because the user happened to move another window over the top of it are also handled by the event loop, so if you’ve got an application that is trying to check for new mail every five minutes but your network connection has dropped and it takes 30 seconds to time out, the application might be completely unresponsive to any other kind of user interaction during that time, and might not even redraw properly if you move other windows over it.

The usual solution to this problem is to introduce a degree of concurrency, so that any event-handling code that isn’t guaranteed to complete very quickly is executed in a new thread in parallel with the event loop. The loop itself is therefore immediately free to continue responding to other events, possibly kicking off still more new threads, as necessary. Unfortunately, there are significant overheads to coding this way, so a lot of simple applications don’t bother and just accept that they might become unresponsive now and then. And of course it’s always possible to make a mistake in the design, responding to a certain type of event that is usually dealt with quickly in the main thread without realising that under some circumstances it will take much longer.

The second factor is abstraction. We used to program pretty close to the metal, because you couldn’t get acceptable performance any other way. Today, we build on top of OS kernels, hardware abstraction layers, device drivers, virtual machines, run-time libraries, and who knows how many other tools, all stacked up and each composed of many layers themselves. The benefits of this approach are many: faster development time, more effective testing and more robust software, ease of porting software to run on different hardware or operating systems, and so on.

The downside is that every time you introduce another abstraction, you are potentially introducing an overhead, and those effects multiply. Even if your abstraction is say 90% efficient compared to programming directly to whatever lies beneath it, if you’ve got 10 layers of abstraction between the code you’re writing in your end user application and the hardware you’re ultimately talking to, the effect is to reduce performance by about 2/3. And there are a lot more than 10 layers between your average end user code and the hardware on most systems today, and some of them are far from 90% efficient.

The third and final factor is somewhat related: if development time (or, if you prefer, time to market) is more of a priority than raw performance, it’s easy to skip over the kind of optimization work that used to be essential to produce software that ran acceptably quickly and within the relatively limited RAM and permanent storage capacity available. It’s one thing to skip the fine details and hand-tweaked assembly language, which was often a very expensive activity in terms of time spent vs. resulting speed-up. It’s another thing to just throw in the first data structure or algorithm that comes to mind, often because whatever software development toolkit you’re using has a limited set of options available and maybe it’s not worth the time to code up something more appropriate, or maybe because as the industry has grown a lot of developers aren’t either formally trained or keen hobbyist geeks any more and not everyone knows about all the options. This is how you wind up with abstractions that are a lot worse than 90%, or that don’t scale well as the amount of data they have to deal with increases and assumptions that the hardware is “fast enough to make up for it these days” break down.

So, in summary, and in more of a cause-to-effect order:

1. The emphasis on reducing development time because of commercial pressures or other non-technical factors, combined with a certain complacency about the capabilities of modern hardware, means that not as much optimization tends to be done before code ships today. Sometimes this introduces a modest overhead, but it can be severe if a poor choice leads to scalability problems.

2. Even if the overheads of any one function are modest, we build modern systems from a stack of many abstraction layers, and their overheads multiply. The compound effect can easily be the equivalent of running on hardware from several years ago, even if no individual layer was grossly wasteful.

3. Because we tend to use event-driven architectures for a lot of modern software, including most GUIs, a single slow operation can block the whole event loop and effectively make the whole UI unresponsive indefinitely. More advanced architectures that would prevent this have significant development costs and aren’t always used for the same reasons as above.

[Edit: OK, this is getting a few upvotes and no-one’s replied suggested cutting it down, so I’ll leave the whole post as it is. Sorry if anyone does feel it’s too long.]


Great post. I wish you kept the same order in the summary, but using the numbering at the end, re #1, the raw speed of CPUs means the difference between O(n) and O(n^2) may not be measurable for reasonable test cases, so it looks fast enough. re #3, #2 also contributes to this. when every function you call goes off and calls ten thousand other functions, you lose control of what blocks and what doesn't. Sometimes GUI event loops don't integrate well with other event loops, such as for networking.


I have the same question. I press the shortcut for "open nautilus", it takes a bit less than a second to open. What's the holdup, Gnome?

At least, in Windows, explorer is pretty much instant.


Is a native, snappy email client something you'd pay for?

$20? $50?

What operating systems? Is there anything specific features/aspects/licensing that would push you to $50?

If neither, (I assume free or close to it) why? How much time do you spend in an email interface? How much is your time worth?

Cheers!


I'd easily pay $100 for a perpetual license for a client that has as many capabilities as TB, plus does exchange calendars/address books right. I'd expense it then, of course :) And it would be worth every cent - while TB has many excellent features, lack of some more enterprise-y things probably cost me much more than $100 in time and effort over my career.

The thing is, however, $100 paid to closed-source software vendor never guarantees he won't be out of business or bought by some Novell that will promptly run it into ground in a year or two. With open source chances for product survival are higher - though, as we see here, are in no way guaranteed.

Just in case anybody cares, I'm currently on Mac OS X, but when I worked on Linux & Windows, I used Thunderbird too, and the same applies for both of these OSes too.


>exchange calendars/address books

That would seem to be the catch, I was originally talking about just an email client. This would now be an email client, exchange client, calendar, address book...


The fact is that calendaring uses email as exchange platform, and address book is directly related to emails, so one would expect naturally all of it to come to one place. Especially if we talking about business environment where all IT/organizational/business procedures expect it to be so traditionally.


I would pay if it were something amazing (i.e. not just a bit faster than Thunderbird), probably around $20. I don't spend that much time on email, but I hate the small annoyances of Thunderbird (when I delete messages a new, empty one appears that can't be removed, it has no tray icon, it starts up maximized and I have to close it every time, it has no decent "send later" functionality, etc).

These are all things that Thunderbird doesn't get right. Also, search is completely broken.


> it has no tray icon

I've got a tray icon in Gnome Shell (and I had one when I was using Gnome 2), using the FireTray extension, and there is also a Gnome Integration extension that provides a tray icon, in theory, but it doesn't work for me.


I just installed FireTray, it looks better than what I used to use, thanks!


> it has no tray icon, it starts up maximized and I have to close it every time, it has no decent "send later" functionality

All of this can be solved by installing addons.


I have, obviously, and it didn't help. Got any recommendations?


It sounds like your "what to do when I mark a mesdsage for deletion" setting is wrong.

What is a tray icon? Is that a windows thing?


It is a Windows thing. I'm on Ubuntu, though, with Gnome 2, and it has one too. They all have one, really.


The little icon biff-like that shows if you have new mail? I always thought it was fairly useless. One or two active mailing list subscriptions and the icon was always lit up.

PS: What is the signifigance of the italicized is?


It's more like "the little icon biff-like that prevents Thunderbird from taking up space on your alt+tab bar when running".

The "is" was just emphasis.


systray (system tray)

Exists in OS X, Windows, (both since their nascent editions) and Gnome since at least 2 if not 1, and KDE since at least version 2 as well.

Usually shoved off to the right as a cluster of icons designed for some core verbiage and notifications.


'notification area' is a little bit more generic a label. If your OS has a global status/taskbar of any kind, it's usually on the right hand side of it.


Operating system of choice? Is it worth more to you if it is cross-platform?

Edit: I saw you use Ubuntu. I happen to use Ubuntu as well. Does cross-platform matter to you?

Edit2: Got it, cross-platform doesn't matter. Cool, thanks for the responses!


I use Linux, I don't really care about the other OSes, I never use them.


I'd happily pay up to $80 for a robust, snappy, modern non-bloated email client that did IMAP very well. Preferably written in C or C# if it was for the Windows market or QT if it needed to be cross platform (I think half of Thunderbird's performance issues are due to it being written in XUL...)

Edit: I'd be happy if the developer of Sublime Text 2 decided to have a go at making a modern, cross-platform email client. Something tells me it would be exactly what I want.


Postbox may fit your particular needs. http://www.postbox-inc.com/ It doesn't support Linux sadly.


I suspect they'll add Linux support at some point, though, particularly if there's demand (and they will be more, as core Thunderbird declines...) -- it shouldn't be too big an effort, as they're built on Thunderbird in the first place.


Thanks sbuk, hadn't heard of Postbox before - I'll give it a go :)


This is a rare case on HN where someone's username is quite relevant.


Eh, I wouldn't necessarily call such a thing rare...

Anyway, I'm starting to get to the point where I don't trust a piece of proprietary software to not try stealing my data, so that's a non-starter for me.


I chose this name consciously as a reminder to be constructive, inquisitive, and helpful (where I have anything to contribute).

This is not my first tricycle ride around the HN block.


Long live mutt :)

In the "who's the user, whose the product" dynamic, I'm a bit confused over what's what in the Mozilla empire. And while no, I wasn't a user, Thunderbird's among the better and more complete email clients out there, I don't see this as a good thing.


Erm, "who's the product". Apostrophe miscue.


Ihmo there isn't so much left to innovate in an email client and Thunderbird is already a solid client so personally this message won't deter me from using it


Whenever you start a sentence with "Ihmo there isn't so much left to innovate in [tech field]" you already know you are probably wrong about it.


I disagree -- nobody has of yet come close to matching Apple's Mail app. It does a simple job exceedingly well, with a minimally impeding user interface.

The alternatives -- including Thunderbird -- are bulky and poorly designed. I believe the wide migration to gmail is in no small part due to the extremely poor showing of e-mail clients on Linux and Windows.


I'd kill for a desktop client that was as good as Gmail. I'm surprised nobody has done a straight copy of the UI in a desktop deployment. Heck, you could do it in Javascript+HTML in an embedded gecko/webkit.


Unfortunately copy of the skin of Gmail would not get you the gigantic honking datacenters that make Gmail so much faster than Mail.app. Would you pay for a client that looked like Gmail and performed like Mail.app?


The only thing I can think of where honking datacenters could conceivably help is searching for things. All other things should be mostly unaffected. And I'm not sure you need an entire datacenter to search through one person's email or address book.

Spam protection is a more serious issue, I think. Both mail servers and desktop clients do it. Mail servers, especially if they get feedback from clients, have a huge advantage though in that they can learn from all their users. The desktop client has to work with a single user's input; unless you implemented some kind of p2p collaborative approach (which would be really cool).


The day-to-day performance of Mail.app is orders of magnitude slower than Gmail. Loading a thread with 100 replies in Mail will take several seconds. The same thread in Gmail will load in milliseconds.


Yes, but that's just evidence that Mail.app is badly optimized, for that use case anyway. You don't need a server farm to get a couple of hundred replies to display quickly.


The giant datacenters get you mail delivery pushed to your browser as fast as IM. You can't do that using POP and SMTP to a normal mail server.


no, but with imap and smtp. what's the point again?


Agreed, that's why I use Mailplane (OSX). It's just a wrapper around Gmail giving me easy account management and OS-level notifications while still letting me use Gmail.


But that is nothing more than a bookmark with extra features that you place in the Dock, not a desktop client.


The last time I played with Opera's built-in mail client, it was pretty similar.


I just want something that works as smoothly as gmail with threaded conversations and a usable search and can manage multiple email accounts easily, is that too much to ask?


I don't get it, why do you want it to be native then? What's the advantage?


Not being tied to Google, or any other specific provider.

No ads (and no need to try to avoid them). Nobody systematically reading all my mail to custom-tailer said ads.

Easier integration with client-side encryption tools to facilitate end-to-end encryption.

Better support for plugins and other modifications.

I'm sure others have variations on this theme.


Agreed, for many of the same reasons.

I have several GMail addresses, and a Google Apps email address for work, and variously-hosted other email addresses, all managed from within Thunderbird (with several extensions found over the years).

I don't want to merge personal stuff with my work email; I don't want to merge my work email into a personal gmail account; and above all I don't want to do either of those things then find that some robot in the system has locked me out of my account.

I also really need to have full offline access, so I can work in spite of unreliable or infrequent net connections. I.e., in 20 minutes of internet access in a crowded coffeeshop, I can upload dozens of responses to yesterday's mail, and collect today's mail, and fit in a few rapid realtime messages, then go. I'm not often forced to work this way, but when I am this is a lifesaver.


If you're on OSX you can use Fluid.app to just make a little web-app out of it. I don't use GMail's web UI but it should work fine in Fluid.


I've been loving Postbox. It's based on TB, but with a better UI and great Gmail/Google Apps integration. It has a free 30-day trial, and will import your accounts from TB seamlessly.


Wonder how Postbox is going to react about TB not being developed any longer. It totally impacts you.


its not open source, and it doesn't work on all platforms.

if Mozilla wanted to do "good things" and not "lets try to be another corporate company!", they' buy off postbox and release that open source, and keep the devs working on it.

They're abandoning TB because it sucks. Frankly. It's buggy, leaky, etc. No one really cared for it, for too long.


Seems unlikely; Scott MacGregor left Mozilla to launch Postbox.


Since you mention OS X: I've been using Sparrow and I'm growing to really like it. It's the exact opposed of "bulky and poorly designed".


I'd argue Mail falls short of Sparrow, especially if you use Gmail. The UI is significantly less impeding.


I believe that's true for some use cases, especially personal use with a single account, especially where integration with Facebook, DropBox/CloudApp, etc, might be valuable.

However -- at least for my primarily work and OSS-focused e-mail usage -- Sparrow's simplicity and focus is misaligned with my requirements and preferences.


> Ihmo there isn't so much left to innovate in an email client

There is interesting innovation going on, for instance <http://notmuchmail.org/>; (and satellite projects such as <https://github.com/teythoon/afew>; and <https://github.com/pazz/alot>.


thanks for the pointer to alot. as a vi guy i could not really get used to notmuch (too much emacs :D) so nice that you pointed me to them.


You're welcome! However, keep in mind that alot is still a pretty young project. I use it to read my mail (and use mutt to compose mail, ie. 'r' in alot spawns mutt), but there are still a lot of rough edges. The nice thing is that the codebase is very hackable (very readable Python, not much cruft yet) and that the lead developper (pazz) is actively working on it and very receptive to bug reports and pull requests. :-)


Completely agree. I'll admit I immediately starting worrying about alternatives, but so long as they keep pushing out security patches, I don't see any reason for an alternative.


I agree with you, with the caveat that you include "given its current trajectory." Is, say, Sparrow better? Maybe. Will someone release an awesome new email client in the future that's better than Sparrow and Thunderbird combined? Definitely. But with infinite time, Thunderbird will never become Sparrow (or Gmail or the next big email client).

Any further features for Thunderbird can be developed as an extension or as a fork (like, say, Postbox -- which is actually really more of an extension rather than a fork, as far as I know).


Enigmail should not exist! I never understood why GPG support was an addon, but smime was baked in...


That's fine, Thunderbird is complete. Great features like labels, filters, and tabs.

As an added bonus of FOSS, the code base can be forked into a new project and continued by those who are interested.


TB Search does suck, though.


No, it works fine. Why specificly do you think it sucks?


Really doesn't. My pet peeve is that there are 2 search bars. Search and Quick Search. The main search doesn't really work well when you want to say, search for emails sent by co-worker X.

You type in their name/email and you get this separate tab (so many tabs). There are things like To Me, From Me, Attachment, People, Starred and a bunch of statistics at the top. You can see a screen shot here: http://www.dagorret.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/thunderbi...

The regular search could be good for advanced searches. There are probably a bunch of options for it somewhere. But for most searches you really want the Quick Search which is some menu bar option.

Not sure what kind of design decision this is either. In Mail.app except for saved searches, I usually try a simp search, if that fails, then there is an option to try and refine it.


Our article about exporting e-mails from Thunderbird to Outlook has been one of the most successful blog posts since 2009: http://blog.nektra.com/main/2009/04/14/export-messages-and-f...

What triggered the article was the unresponsiveness from the Thunderbird team about ugly bugs we reported and they removed!


Too bad really, but probably coming for a while now. I use Tbird on Windows (and Mail.app on OS X) with my email hosted at pobox.com. I have a gmail account but I've never been a fan of webmail at all.

I miss Eudora :( Now that was a simple, fast, clean email client.


Me too! Lightning fast. I actually run it still in XP Mode in Windows 7 (couldn't get it working natively) for my personal email (Thunderbird for work, like to have a clean separation), even with that layer of emulation it's the fastest thing ever. I also love the ability to alt-click on any field and have the messages grouped by that. Closest I've found in Thunderbird (penelope extension is awful) is the Nostalgy extension, set up so that ` toggles between grouping messages by sender or subject based on the email you have selected. Not as awesome and not as fast, but still super handy.


I would use it but I worry about using programs that are not being actively maintained because of the risk of security vulnerabilities. Especially in email where you can have a lot of risky inputs (spam, phishing attempts etc) - even though I have great spam protection (thanks pobox) there is still a risk. I'm not sure what I'm going to do on Windows yet... I'm trying Postbox and it's nice.


someone please explain to the author what Open Source means and why Mozilla pulling their own people off an Open source project doesn't prevent that project from continuing


Someone please explain to ABS that open source isn't magic and in many cases the community does not have enough resources or will to continue development of a product (see Camino).


You are missing the point. It's quite possible no one will pick it up but that's completely different from saying, sarcastically, "But it’s not stopping? Right".

What the above is is ignorance of what it means to develop open source code.

EDIT: an please let's try and stop this trend here on HN of replying to comments ignoring half of them. I wrote "doesn't prevent that project from continuing" not "it will definitely find other people to carry on"


It's TechCrunch, don't expect them to know about software (not that any other major tech publication, except maybe Ars, is any better than TC. Almost none of their writers have the slightest clue about the software).


there is lwn and (to a much lesser degree) heise.


Thanks. I didn't know about them and must check them out.

But now that I think about it again, I think I was a little harsh. There are plenty of good news sites about Open Source software and community.


Actually - TB will die. That is, it'll be maintained, but it wont keep pace. It already did not, while it had PAID employees on it. Now, it's the same, except theres zero paid employees on it.

No one's interested into making it better. Wish I was wrong.


After re-reading the TC article, I think the "Right?" comment has more to do with calling out corporate doublespeak than open source. You're right that nothing is preventing the community from developing Thunderbird, but realistically it appears that there has been very little community contribution in the past so without Mozilla's funding it's a safe prediction that development will virtually stop.


If you want to contribute to Thunderbird in order to improve its UX, then the "parity with Postbox" meta-bug would be a good place to start.

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=737347


Funny, after a couple years of webmail I have just installed Thunderbird again today since I wanted to have more powerful features. I was positively surprised that it had improved quite bit.


I also found that out the same way, and it was owerwhelmingly great!

Only that it was soulcrushingly slow. Firefox is quite snappy theese days (especially with pentadactyl, mmhm sweet jezuz) but TB was always a hog.


This is rather interesting, given that Mozilla had recently adopted the lead developer from the Mozilla-based IM client Instantbird to incorporate chat into TB15. Knowing the software is deadpooled, I wonder in hindsight if that was a last-ditch effort to stay relevant or if that effort helped highlight the inevitable decline/futility of desktop-based email.


I've been a HEAVY user of Thunderbird for 8 years now and I am very saddened by this decision but I do support it. :(

One part of me saw this while reading the letter: "Google Chrome is whooping our FireFox browser's ass and we need all men at their battle stations, including people from the Thunderbird team. We've been neglecting Thunderbird for so long that it's not like anyone's going to notice. After all, it took us 10 years to get Sunbird (Mozilla's Standalone Calendar Client) to version 1.0."

And the other part of me saw this while reading the letter: "The era of desktop software is coming to an end. Most people have smart phones, multiple computers, and use web-mail to keep it all in sync and accessible across all of their devices. Desktop email client users make up a small percentage of users and there's no reason for us to keep spending money and resources on something that will one day be emulated by a web interface."

=== Things Wrong With Thunderbird That Will Probably Never Get Fixed (too expensive / not worth it) ===

- The biggest problem with Thunderbird is that it tries to be a bare-bones email client with poorly integrated functionality in the form of third party add-ons. What really makes email clients shine is when a lot of usable features are tightly integrated with a very intuitive and snappy interface. Thunderbird out of the box comes with so few features that it can't compete well with web mail and when you do add on much needed features, they just get generically "bolted on" to the interface. Sometimes in ways that just seem unintuitive and backwards. And every time you update Thunderbird, ALL of your add-ons are rendered useless and you have to wait days/weeks/indefinitely for the addon to be updated. This is the biggest downfall of Thunderbird in my eyes. You'd have to redesign Thunderbird and that isn't happening, it isn't worth it.

- By default Thunderbird tries to send all my outgoing mail through 1 smtp account. This alone causes so many problems. Each email account should send emails from its own stmp. Not doing so can mark your "from" field incorrectly (has happened to me many times), trigger red flags (happened to me before) and make other email clients mark your email as "Gmail thinks this message is a scam".

- The SPAM filter in Thunderbird is A.W.F.U.L. Let me repeat that A-W-F-U-L. Despite training it for years it routinely misses the same spam, with the same title, and the same content, while sometimes marking very important emails as junk.

- The time and date selector for Lightning is just atrocious to the point where I hate having to use it. It FORCES me to set everything in military time and makes date selection more cumbersome than it needs to be.

- The tasks todo list for Lightning has never worked for me. Never.

- Thunderbird is stuck to one device (desktop). Technically you can have Thunderbird across a lot of computers by using IMAP instead of POP3 but that slows down and cancels out a lot of your speed benefits.

=== Why Mozilla Should Fix Them ===

- Originally I had typed up a HUGE list of things that desktop email clients can do that web mail clients cannot. Upon further inspection I found that a LOT of those features, everything from multiple accounts being displayed in one stream and searching across multiple accounts is now available in gmail.

- Email Clients allow me to have full control over my email inboxes and contacts without having to feed them into gmail.

- Email Clients give me a lot of options in how I can display, index, read, and write email.

- Email Clients allow me to search emails and contacts from across ALL my email accounts (gmail currently has a limit of 5 accounts).

- Email Clients allow you instant one click access to all your email accounts with powerful and expandable features, an intuitive and lightning fast interface, and god-like control over massive amounts of email accounts. For business people, entrepreneurs, assistants, community organizers, and domain owners email clients are a necessity.

- The same way power-users like using Seesmic for twitter and facebook, and people like downloading and using native apps over web based ones, the speed and control of software is what's keeping me with Email Clients at the moment.

- As soon as you have more than 5 email accounts to manage on a daily basis, the speed of an Email Client wins out. Gmail only allows 5 multiple accounts to be imported into your stream.

=== Why Mozilla Will NOT Fix Them And Instead Leave Thunderbird ===

- Everything I mentioned above is slowly getting emulated by web mail. At the moment gmail is the winner when it comes to email client emulation but in a few years I can see an elegant php+mysql web based email client that not only does exactly what Thunderbird does, but does it across all your devices. And without breaking all your addons after every update.

TLDR: The end is near for Outlook + Thunderbird + Mail + Evolution + The Others...


The problem is that Gmail is shit lately, which has gotten me to switch back to Mail.app, which isn't bad. It turns out IMAP reproduces approximately all the advantages of webmail.


  Thunderbird is stuck to one device (desktop). Technically you can have Thunderbird across a lot of computers by using IMAP instead of POP3 but that slows down and cancels out a lot of your speed benefits.
You're still using POP3? You're about the second person that I know does that.

Your complaints about Lightning are misplaced. It's an extension, not part of Thunderbird itself.


In my situation POP3 works best. I only check email on 1 device, my desktop. Not my phone, not on other computers. I have 4 gmail accounts and 4 email inboxes from my .com domains. I NEVER use my web host's webmail interface. NOR do I want old email backed up into it. So I use POP3 to pull ALL of my emails out of those accounts. I don't like leaving my email with gmail either. I pull it out and it becomes mine. I own my email. I have my entire Thunderbird portable folder with ALL of my emails backed up constantly.

=== Security Wise ===

If anyone somehow breaks into ANY of my email accounts I still have access to all of my emails, they can't delete any emails, and they can't read any of my emails. With IMAP they can just look through old confirmation emails and see your username, go to that site, try to log in as you, click "I forgot my password", and have it sent through email, log in with the new reset password and change all your credentials to a new username, new password, & new email so you can never log back in. Effectively creating a massive mess for you to clean up. Email is the greatest failure point of your digital existence.

I've reached a point in my digital life when I realize how insecure I feel to have so much information all over the place with ANYONE in the world able to access it all just by knowing a password. With everyone claiming a stake to own my digital property I feel the best way to truly be in control of my own words is to pull my emails out completely and keep them locally. I want to own my words, I want to completely control where they are and on what hard drive they exist. It makes me happy.


Offlineimap is another alternative. It allows use of multiple clients in multiple locations off a central mailstore, while offering the speed and performance advantages of locally-managed email.


I use POP3 as a way of storing a local backup of my gmail emails.


- The SPAM filter in Thunderbird is A.W.F.U.L. Let me repeat that A-W-F-U-L. Despite training it for years it routinely misses the same spam, with the same title, and the same content, while sometimes marking very important emails as junk.

As someone who has also been a heavy Thunderbird user for years, I have not had the same experience. If anything, same content/subject/sender email spam is where Thunderbird's spam filter shines for me.

I have two fairly heavily spammed accounts, one of which has a public email address. They consistently catch and remove same or similar content spam every day without issue.

In regards to false positives, it does happen sometimes. Although in most cases the emails that end up in the junk folder legitimately resemble a spam message. Almost any time a legitimate email has been marked as spam, which doesn't really happen all that often, unspamming it is sufficient to ensure the sender doesn't end up there again.


I get more false positives than false negatives. But when I switched to out Outlook 2007 for half a year (got my hands on free Office 2007 launch kit) That was the first thing I noticed. Outlook, at least for me, had amazing spam control right out of the box. Everything else was dreadful but the spam control was amazing. Then again, I tend to have email addresses from almost 10 years ago when I was 15.

Maybe its because I'm using a portable version of Thunderbird. Although it shouldn't matter.


No, it's not just you. I've had an unhappy experience with the spam filters (with a normal Thunderbird install) for years now. It seems to miss things that are obviously spam (to a human); thankfully I haven't had too many false-positives... that I've caught, at least.


"Technically you can have Thunderbird across a lot of computers by using IMAP instead of POP3 but that slows down and cancels out a lot of your speed benefits."

??? You want to explain this a little further? IMAP is fast you only download headers.


Every time you label something, star something, move an email into a folder, mark as spam, or delete emails it would sync immediately and cause a little delay. This drove me insane as I was used to POP3's download once, interact with it instantly.


> By default Thunderbird tries to send all my outgoing mail through 1 smtp account.

This is the sane default. Your average access provider gives you an smtp server. Your average mail provider, if it provides smtp, may give you an smtp server that will rewrite your enveloppe and worse that is not available everywhere. So the smtp server to use should depend on where your computer is, not which mail account you are using.

> Not doing so can mark your "from" field incorrectly (has happened to me many times) trigger red flags (happened to me before) and make other email clients mark your email as "Gmail thinks this message is a scam".

See it is better to have only one good smtp server to configure to avoid those problems.


that's plain wrong. look up spf (sender policy framework) if you want to know more.


Among the 10 email addresses I have, only 6 are linked to an smtp server and exactly one implements spf.

This makes me think that today, defaulting to using one smtp for all accounts is saner than bugging the user and having 8 out of 10 mail accounts that cannot send mails.


It's spelled "awful."


Bah. What's a good alternative native email reader?


My own preference is mutt, and I'm deadly serious about that.

KMail / Kontact is actually a very nice client / integrated suite (and it will happily play either way). I consider it the best general PIM I've encountered on any platform.

Balsa and Thunderbird (GNOME).


I prefer Sup to mutt. Labels instead of folders, indexing for super fast searching, it's awesome.


I've been meaning to try that. Ah ... it's in Debian repos now: sup-mail.

From what I recall and read: sup is the ruby-based implementation of mutt. I believe there are also forks of the mainstream mutt which incorporate indexing, tags, and notmuch.


Homepage: http://sup.rubyforge.org/

Note: No built-in IMAP (use fetchmail). Uses Xapian for searching. Handles multiple SMTP servers well (unlike TBird)


Opera's built in mail client is excellent. It's unfortunately baked into the browser, so while still pretty light (Opera's what 10-15 Mb) it's got a bit of irrelevent UI laying about in email mode. Still excellent though.


Why switch now? It's not like they're deleting it off the Internet.


I run Apple's Mail.app and Outlook (for calendaring) side-by side on OS X 10.7 reading from a Gmail IMAP account and an Exchange Account. I prefer Apple's Mail.app - thought I had my doubts for the first few releases of 10.7 when it crashed continuously and got hung up on the Exchange Server with a "constant activity" task. As of 10.7.4 it's (mostly) returned to 10.6.8 stability. It's a viable alternative to Thunderbird/Outlook for mail reading on OS X. Though, honestly, if you are happy with thunderbird, I'm sure it will be many years before you need to consider alternatives.


Mutt?

In seriousness, I'm not sure there is one.


Used to use alpine, never could make the ui switch to mutt. Now I'm on offlineimap+notmuch+notmuch.el+postfix and I frigging love it.


My favorite combination is offlineimap+mu+mu4e. Mu is really fast, mu4e is a great reader and its interface is similar to Wanderlust (another great Emacs based mail reader) which is why I prefer it to notmuch.el.

http://www.djcbsoftware.nl/code/mu/

http://www.djcbsoftware.nl/code/mu/mu4e.html


Clawsmail or it's ancestor, Sylpheed. If you're one for a beautiful and flashy UI then these options are not for you.


Native to what?


I think he meant as a desktop client.


For what OS?


Any. If the e-mail client is good enough, I'll run the required OS in a VM.


Is there a good non-native one that's not tied to a specific provider either?


On Linux: Evolution


Has evolution improved much lately? When I last used it about 2 years ago it was quite buggy.


According to this [1] article, it is the best client after Thunderbird.

[1]: http://www.techradar.com/news/software/applications/best-lin...


I actually switched from Thunderbird to Evolution because the former couldn't handle some of my larger IMAP mailboxes. It also makes me happy because Calendar works nicely (in my case at least) with Google Calendars.


pine (alpine)


dead unfortunately. (and some things are very hard to integrated nicely)


Outlook ?


So what do you guys use for managing multiple email accounts well? I love gmail.com but it still doesn't have an easy way to add multiple accounts to the same interface so I'm stuck with the problem of constantly switching between 3 google accounts just to read my email.

I used thunderbird for a while but it doesn't show or work with conversation threads as well as gmail and it's search functionality is terrible (I always had to open up gmail to find old email)


I use thunderbird but you can do what you asked in gmail.

The steps I believe are:

1. Forward All Email to 1 email address (you can use a filter to even forward the spam if you don't want false positives getting stuck in an email account you don't log in with often.

2. Set up the ability to send mail as all the email accounts on your main account (this is done in settings, i think it was under identities or something)

3. Select the option to (on reply) send email from the address it was sent to

With this you will also be able to send from any email account from your main one.


Thanks for the information, unfortunately one is a Gmail account (personal) and the other 2 are Google apps accounts (startup and side project) and I don't think you can send mail looking like a user at a Google Apps address.

Also I don't really want all my email from these 3 services mashed together into the one inbox as it'd be almost impossible to undo and it'll get messy really quick.

All I really want is a side pane in Gmail similar to Thunderbird / outlook which shows the 3 accounts and their folders with how much mail is in each folder, then I can easily click on any folder to navigate to it straight away.


Google has the capacity to make this really easy; the fact that they haven't makes me wonder how difficult it is to aggregate search and other data into one user profile, as that seems like the primary argument against easy Gmail (and thus Google) account mashups.

By far my biggest frustration as a 5-account, 3-OS (plus mobile) GMail and Apps user is the client. Two personal accounts, an academic and side project, and a professional one. Oy. Thunderbird provided some cross-platform consistency, but was far too clunky to last in my workflow - not surprised it died.

What I've done for the last six months (before recently experimenting again) was keeping the six accounts completely separate and using Sparrow on OSX/iOS as the primary means of access. It kept headers from getting all effed up with Gmail aliasing, but was a real pain when I would occasionally have to log in via web (signing in/out multiple times to check inboxes, etc.).

I've now decided to keep all non mission-critical forwarded to the same account (for me 5 Gmail/Apps accounts, for you would be your personal and side project accounts) and the professional account (Apps) separate. With Google allowing a max of Gmail and one Apps account at the same time, this works fine, so long as I'm willing to have my headers display stupid "sent by [me] on behalf of [my other email]" text. Which I am at this point for a little simplicity.

Agreed that an aggregator/navigator plugin would be killer (even if it just forwarded you to an incognito tab with your mailbox, to keep you from having to sign out of your main Google account) but the implementation details are onerous/likely impossible.


Is there a good web-based email client? Like a html/javascript email client that can talk POP3 & SMTP or IMAP. It's like a Thunderbird on the web.

Note I don't mean Gmail/YahooMail/Hotmail. Just a web-based email client that can talk to multiple accounts using standard protocols. Some light server storage support for buffering the POP3 mails would be great.


There's RoundCube. I don't think it does multiple accounts though.


Excellent. Looks very nice.


I've been dying for something like this. My ideal client is basically a clone of gmail, but one that connects through my local internet connection. I know gmail can do POP and IMAP, but it cannot connect to my workplace VPN. RoundCube definitely looks like a good start, I will check it out.


Too bad, all the Thunderbird features they've been implementing have been really positive. I can't say the same for Firefox...

Last time I tried the nightlies Thunderbird was coming together as a great "Messaging" client - with IM, IRC, Facebook, GTalk support, filelink for sending big files with dropbox.

It's just too bad, I don't find any of the new features in Firefox nearly as exciting as those. Without addons it is still set up and functions pretty much like phoenix does the way I have it configured. I never liked insert tab after current - which is copied from chrome, never liked tab previews which slow down ctrl+tabbing, despise the autoupdate service firefox installs now - they're pretty much jamming firefox with all these useless and copied features and stopping true innovation with Thunderbird.


Well that sucks :(

I've used Thunderbird exclusively for all of my IMAP accounts (8 of them) for years. I cache all my mail locally so I can get to it with or without an internet connection and if I'm on the road and haven't got my laptop with me, I can still get to all my mail via a web interface. It's the perfect setup.

I will be a very unhappy bunny if Thunderbird dies on the vine and all I'm left with is Outlook or Windows Mail (neither of which have decent IMAP support).

Damn you Mozilla!


Highly recommend this and one reason I'd be super upset if Thunderbird ever vanishes:

http://extensions.hesslow.se/extension/4/Quicktext/

Allows you to do all sorts of templating within emails. A huge time saver. Great for customer service any any type of standard replies.

(Anyone know of any other way to do this should TB ever vanish? Can you write extensions for other email clients?)


* CampaignMonitor[1] reports just 1.21% usage

* litmus[2] reports 2.4%

Not the huge market share that you'd expect.

[1] http://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/will-it-work/email-...

[2]http://litmus.com/resources/email-client-stats


The thing that has kept me with thunderbird are the AdBlockPlus and VirtualIdentity plugin. Does mail.app / opera mail / any other Linux client have something comparable?

(Virtual Identity is a godsend when you have a domain; it lets you set up identities on the fly while writing an email, and manages them beautifully and helpfully for you)


It's my favourite newsgroup reader. What are the other alternatives (I'm using it on OSX, Windows and Linux)


On OS X, your best bet for a newsgroup reader is Unison (http://panic.com/unison/), which quite honestly beat the snot out of Thunderbird for that purpose a long time ago.

I don't have good recommendations for the other two systems, though, sadly.


As an average user, there's just too much overhead in maintaining the desktop client for personal email.


Is there a good free/paid webmail service that can be used with a custom domain and has good security? As far as I know, GMail can only be used with a custom domain if you convert your account to Google Apps, which prevents you from using some Google services.


I use Fastmail.fm for my email hosting (using my own domain), and recommend them. They don't have two-factor authentication, but do have others, such as one-time passwords. They have a lot of features over and above GMail too (such as aliases and personalities), and much prefer them to GMail.


Google Apps has aliases and catch-all.


I'm not sure what services you are referring to, and I recall that being the case in the past, but I can't think of any Google product that doesn't work with Google Apps accounts.


You can create a new account with your new domain. Switching among google accounts is pretty easy now, it's just a dropdown in the upper right. You can load Google Docs or email or whatever just by picking an account from a menu.


When I used Apps, I just created a new account and used a different browser window (in Incognito) to access Gmail.


What do you use now?


I run my own server. exim4 and Sup[1] on Debian on a $3/month VPS in the Netherlands. Access to the client through SSH.

[1]: http://sup.rubyforge.org/


You can use fastmail.fm with your own domains.


Hopefully this will open up some breathing space for serious open-source mail client alternatives. I'm hoping for a revival of Letters.app (https://github.com/ccgus/letters)


I guess I will have to shift to Postbox .. which is a private variation on Thunderbird.


Damn. I just finished importing 18,922 messages from my old email app (the dire windows mail). I've been running Thunderbird (Portable Apps edition) for the past week... it's been excellent so far.


I'm pretty sure Postbox (http://www.postbox-inc.com/) is based on Thunderbird's source, no? I wonder that this means for them?


I guess now they'll have to do all their development. But if they want to hire programmers with Thunderbird experience I know where they can find some...


It would be ironic if they scrapped TB to have more people working on FireFox, and then lost all their ex-TB employees to other companies.


We use it at work.

For sure, there are bugs never fixed and some features that would need polish. I hope support will continue for some time.


Thunderbird is(was?) pretty good for what it did and was a good competitor for Outlook about 5 or 6 years ago, but the POP and IMAP protocols and the servers that implemented them were no good and never came up to the level of Exchange.

Thunderbird simply didn't have the other half of the equation, Exchange clones failed to live up to their promise and Thunderbird floundered with the introduction of Gmail.

With a powerful Exchange replacement on the server side, it could've flourished as the client of choice.

Not to mention that Thunderbird did not have a source of revenue like Firefox did.


I have been using IMAP on Thunderbird for at least the past 5 years and it has worked well. I even used to use Netscape's email client back int the day and it worked well, too. Open source email software is vastly superior to MS offerings. Outlook is good group ware, who needs it on today's social web?

Exchange + Outlook are horrible and mostly used due to the power of Microsoft's monopoly.

PS - I am an MCP and have administered Exchange in the past.


>Outlook is good group ware, who needs it on today's social web?

Almost all companies do? Or do you propose they use the public social web instead of groupware like Exchange or Google Apps?

>Exchange + Outlook are horrible and mostly used due to the power of Microsoft's monopoly.

What's horrible about them? Also, you don't need Outlook to communicate with someone using Outlook, so I don't see much of a monopoly effect unlike with Word or Excel.

If there's an alternative server and client software that costs much less than Exchange and is easier to administer but has similar or more features, why won't people switch? The lack of such server software is what killed Thunderbird. After all, some are moving to Google Apps.


I will light a candle rather than curse your darkness! (I am not trolling and welcome this discussion !)

>>Almost all companies do? Or do you propose they use the public social web instead of groupware like Exchange or Google Apps?

Odd you equate google apps w/ exchange.

Most companies have an intranet that includes a wiki, evernote, or forum. Also, many source code control systems include a knowedge base, wiki, and comment system. Google docs + hosted domain gmail is easy to use, more secure, more robust, and lower cost than Exchange + Outlook. The reason large companies don't do this is they have sunk costs in Exchange and an admin who likes it -- why change? But for start-ups and new companies it is a no brainer. Licensing alone of Exchange (plus windows server with active directory) is prohibitive. Most users have IM accounts on AIM, Skype, or Gmail to use for chatting.

>>What's horrible about them?

UI, stability, security, documentation, user license agreement, required system resources, remote exploits that grant admin rights. I'll run out of space to list them all!

>>I don't see much of a monopoly effect unlike with Word

Good point, for example MS is appealing the verdict that it in fact abused its monopoly position with Word vs. Wordperfect. It is more subtle when it comes to Outlook. For example, the only workstations Dell sells come with a MS operating system, that includes IE and Outlook (but you must pay for Outlook/office after 2 months or something). Or staples. Or Office Depot.

>>why won't people switch

The power of mono-culture aka monopoly. It is well documented in the public record that microsoft repeated abused their monopoly position.

This is beyond the scope of email clients, but look into:

Novel Networking (IPX), 3COM lanman licensing, Sysbase & MS SQL server, Apple's UI lawsuit vs win95 that MS settled, IE & Netscape, Real media vs windows media player, The Samba group trying to get docs , Word & Wordperfect,

>> The lack of such server software is what killed Thunderbird

Wow, ummm, no.


(Reposting since this thread is relevant)

I recently set up an email system for a small company using cPanel, hMailServer (a Windows mailserver) and Thunderbird. I actually looked at Zimbra but decided to go with a Windows-based solution. I also considered Google Apps, but was afraid it wouldn't allow for fine-grained control over access permissions (i.e. managers seeing subordinates' accounts and restricted shared folders) and also unrestricted creation email aliases/accounts.

Should I have taken a closer look at Google Apps? Thunderbird isn't the easiest to use, but I like how it's easy to work with shared IMAP folders. Do you know of any solution (groupware suite, etc.) to the need for shared email folders with user access control?

Advice from anyone is appreciated!


>The reason large companies don't do this is they have sunk costs in Exchange and an admin who likes it -- why change?

The bigger reason that with locally hosted mail, you have accountability and control over your own data.

>UI, stability, security, documentation, user license agreement, required system resources, remote exploits that grant admin rights

I am sure Google Apps has none of those issues, except things like this http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4198080

>It is more subtle when it comes to Outlook. For example, the only workstations Dell sells come with a MS operating system, that includes IE and Outlook (but you must pay for Outlook/office after 2 months or something). Or staples. Or Office Depot.

That sounds extremely roundabout. A 2 month trial of Outlook is not going to convince anyone to keep using it.

>Wow, ummm, no.

You have not provided one shred of reason to counter my point that, if there was a Exchange alternative that integrated well with Thunderbird, it might have been a success.


Linux & Thunderbird are much better for local email than MS Exchange. Exchange sells MS server 200x licenses.

Web stuff is for groupware, but not MILSPEC.

Yesterday's Thunderbird is superior to today's Outlook as an email client.

I got tired at the end of my last reply.


Isn't Zimbra basically what you're describing -- a holistic server + client replacement for Exchange? That has actually been reasonably successful.


Every single time I've tried to use outlook I've found it so painfully slow its almost unusable. But I do have a lot of email.


This fascinates me. What does Exchange do that standard protocols don't? (In terms of email, I mean. I suppose Exchange also has calendaring and some workflow, right?)


It's often extended in various ways server-side with custom logic, but the real advantages are in terms of ease of admin and, client-side, excellent and basically unrivalled collaborative calendaring.

There are better mail clients, but I've never, ever seen anyone doing collab-calendaring better than Outlook. (oh and google doesn't apply, most serious companies simply cannot use it for all sorts of legal or strategic reasons)


Sure, you can't outsource your confidential data - that makes perfect sense to me. I was just wondering what would be involved in an Exchange replacement, because, you know, mail serving is pretty much a solved problem. Calendaring, though, seems like it could be pretty hard to get right.

Thanks!




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