Thunderbird developers quit Mozilla

McGregor, Bienvenu leave after Mozilla spins off their open-source e-mail client

Just three weeks after Mozilla spun off its Thunderbird to a new subsidiary, the only two paid developers working on the e-mail client said they were quitting the company.

Both Scott McGregor and David Bienvenu used terse blog posts last week to announce that their last day with Mozilla will be at the end of this week.

"I plan to continue on, as a volunteer, with my role as a module owner for the Thunderbird project," said McGregor, who started the Thunderbird project in February 2003. "I wish the Mozilla Corporation and the new Thunderbird Mail Corporation luck in their future endeavors," he added. Bienvenu posted a similar message on his blog Friday.

Mozilla did not respond to questions and a request for comment on the departure of the two developers, who led the largely volunteer effort.

In a blog posting of her own, Mozilla's CEO Mitchell Baker only alluded to losing McGregor and Bienvenu. As she retraced the decision to separate Thunderbird from the Firefox-centric work at Mozilla, she said: "Two things became clear. We had the team for developing ... a stand-alone desktop email application. But we didn't have the complete set of people to address both that and the larger issues."

The second thing that became apparent, she said, was that Mozilla wouldn't be able to create the kind of e-mail/communication software that was needed by users.

Last month, Baker announced the spinoff, dubbed "MailCo" until a permanent name can be found, would be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, just as is the for-profit Mozilla Corp. The separation was the result of discussion within the latter, as well as public debate about Thunderbird's future that kicked off in July. Firefox, Baker said in July and repeated today, is Mozilla's first and overriding priority, which left Thunderbird a stepchild at best.

"Firefox was at the center of a new wave of activity and a giant ecosystem," she said, referring to a period two years ago when Firefox share caught fire. "Through this Mozilla acquired a stronger voice for openness, innovation and participation on the web." But not Thunderbird. "Thunderbird is an excellent basis for thinking about these topics and improving Internet and web-based communications as a whole. But this wasn't happening, Baker said. "We weren't seeing Thunderbird develop the kind of community or influence in the industry that Firefox has."

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