Friday, July 27, 2007

Will OSS spinoff beget a spinoff?

The CEO of the Mozilla open source project said Wednesday it is thinking of spinning off its Thunderbird e-mail client so (to put it more bluntly than she did) it doesn’t atrophy due to neglect. Mitchell Baker (realistically) notes that Thunderbird is not getting the attention given how browser-focused the Firefox Mozilla Foundation is.

Of course, everyone knows that Mozilla was created from Netscape when AOL decided it was tired of losing money on browsers. So this would be a spinoff of a spinoff — or perhaps more accurately, a founding of a foundling.

What I found odd (almost shocking) is that Baker (who I’ve met a few times) didn’t mention Eudora or Penelope, the planned Eudora-Thunderbird open source collaboration led by Qualcomm. Penelope has code, engineers and installed base, something Thunderbird badly needs, particularly if it’s about to become a Mozilla foundling.
Is Baker ignoring Penelope due to a bad case of NIH? Does this presage some unannounced Qualcomm-Mozilla Foundation divorce? Did she just happen to forget about the code, engineers, and fanatically loyal users (of which I’m one)? The comments on her blog suggest that the Eudora users didn’t forget, but again Penelope doesn’t rate a mention in her summary of the comments.

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