Mozilla has been ramping up work on its Thunderbird email client over the past two years, with another major update planned for later this year. Mozilla has now confirmed that additional features and services are in the works that will cost money.
The Thunderbird team released its 2022 financial report today, outlining how the project’s income increased by 21% compared to 2020, almost entirely thanks to user donations. That has helped pay for an expanded team, cleaning up Thunderbird’s code and interface, and turning K-9 Mail into a new Thunderbird app for Android devices. Mozilla is still expecting most of the work to “pay off in our 2024 release,” with some improvements appearing in a Thunderbird 115 “Supernova” update coming this year.
There is one surprise in the financial report: confirmation that Mozilla is working on paid features for the mail client. The blog post explains, “Thunderbird is also expanding beyond the core experience you already use. We’ve been exploring additional sources of revenue in the form of new tools and services to increase your productivity. We’re planning to introduce some of these, in Beta status, later this year. Rest assured that we have no plans to charge money for the powerful Thunderbird experience you enjoy today (nor do we plan to remove features and charge for them later).”
It’s not a surprise that the Thunderbird team is working on paid features, since many of the changes going into the mail app have direct infrastructure costs (like Firefox Sync support) beyond the usual development costs. It could also help keep Thunderbird around for the long haul, as many people are willing to pay outright for features and services who might otherwise never donate to the project.
Mozilla hasn’t shared any details about the paid features, so we can only speculate for now. It might be interesting to see Thunderbird partner with a hosted email service like Fastmail on a packaged product, or perhaps a paid version in the Mac and Windows app stores, like LibreOffice. Mozilla already offers a VPN service that integrates with Firefox.
Source: Thunderbird Blog
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