Eudora goes open source

Open-source email client Thunderbird will be the basis on which a new version of Eudora is built

Is there a widely-used Internet tool that's been around longer than Eudora? If so, it's not springing to mind. I've never been a regular user myself, but there are PC Worlders who swear by this venerable (est. 1988) e-mail program to this day, and we have a history of saying nice things about it (in 2003, we named it as the best e-mail program, period). It's had a low profile for a good long while, but on Wednesday, Qualcomm, which has owned the product for 15 years, made it the subject of a major announcement: Eudora is going open source.

Actually, it's not Eudora as it exists today that's becoming an open-source product. Rather, Qualcomm says that a new version of Eudora will be built on top of Thunderbird, the open-source e-mail client that's the sibling of Mozilla's Firefox browser. The details are a little vague at this point, but the project seems to involve preserving at least some of Eudora's unique personality while swapping out its aging underpinnings for Thunderbird's more up-to-date offerings.

With this news, Qualcomm released minor updates to the Windows and Mac versions of Eudora; they're US$20 apiece and the company says it'll stop selling them when the new Thunderbird-ized Eudora is available. So if you're one of the Eudora faithful, you might want to grab 'em while you can.

It's impossible to tell whether this is good news for Eudora fans until the open source version arrives. (The somewhat similar reinvention of Netscape as a Mozilla-based browser doesn't seem to have done a thing to return it to relevance.) But it's been obvious for eons that Eudora was not exactly at the center of Qualcomm's world, or even on its periphery; as an open-source product, Eudora's fate won't be dependent on continued Qualcomm support. As long as there are people who love it, it can live on...

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