Mozilla Sparks New Fire with Thunderbird E-Mail Client

Riding on the Firefox 1.0 fanfare that saw more than 9 million users download the open-source Web browser, the Mozilla Foundation today announced the launch of its Thunderbird 1.0 mail client.

Thunderbird focuses on new features and settings to help stop spam and prevent viruses, the two biggest problems facing e-mail users today.

The company reported that millions of consumers are already using Thunderbird. It touts the adaptive junk-mail controls, which take information it learns from e-mails that users receive to curtail spam.

“Thunderbird 1.0 marks another successful product milestone for the Mozilla Foundation, made possible by hundreds of community volunteers and developers around the world,” Mitchell Baker, president of the Mozilla Foundation, said. “Thunderbird is the perfect companion to Firefox and demonstrates another success of the open-source development model.”

Migrating Made Easy

Mozilla is aiming to make it easy for users to switch from Outlook Express and other clients. When users first launch the product, Thunderbird migrates the mail account from Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora and Netscape Communicator.

Jupiter analyst Joe Wilcox told LinuxInsider that easy migration is a Mozilla trademark. Just as Firefox makes it seamless for Internet Explorer users to make the switch by preserving favorites and passwords, he said, Thunderbird makes switching from Outlook quick and efficient.

“The more complex the software, the greater the barrier to switching,” Wilcox said. “With an e-mail client like Outlook, for example, you might have your contacts and e-mail going back for years and you wouldn’t want to lose that. So this ease of going from one to another is very important.”

That said, the consumer market’s cry for user-friendliness and the business world’s need for efficient companywide deployment are two different animals.

“In the business market, we see that a lot of the Outlook adoption is tied to back-end server software,” Wilcox said. “So companies that use Microsoft Exchange Server are very likely to deploy Outlook companywide. That’s quite a barrier to adoption for Thunderbird.”

Features Enough?

Thunderbird is bragging about its new features, like RSS news and blog reader integration into its e-mail client. Users can scan and sort through hundreds of headlines. Extensions like Palm Synchronization with an address book are designed to allow a level of customization and convenience.

Saved search folders and a search bar offer the ability to save common searches in virtual folders and find e-mails with the search bar. A global inbox, message filters, grouping, message views, labels and other tools are also available to help users manage e-mail messages.

However, Wilcox said all those features might still not be enough to get consumers to switch e-mail clients.

“Thunderbird must be so much better than anything else that people are willing to switch to it,” he said. “The benefits aren’t just outweighing the physical products they are trying to replace, but any services that are attached to that. That might not happen in the business market.”

Multi-Lingual Thunderbird

Today’s announcement marks the immediate availability of Thunderbird 1.0 for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux as a free download from mozilla.org and by CD from the Mozilla Store. Thunderbird is now available in English, German, Greek and Turkish with more languages on the way.

Thunderbird supports both IMAP and POP3 protocols and works with popular e-mail services.

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