31 December 2007

Spicing Up Thunderbird

As I've noted before, one of the key features of free software is its modularity. From this and the underlying licence flows the ability to mix and match different elements to produce new applications.

Here's a good example:

Synovel, a startup based on Hyderabad, India founded by a group of International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) graduates, has released a preview of Spicebird, a Mozilla-based collaboration suite.

Spicebird is built on Thunderbird and Lightning, the powerful extension that adds calendaring functions to Thunderbird. Additionally it seems to integrate SamePlace, a Firefox extension that provides instant messaging capabilities based on the Jabber protocol.

Interesting to see that this is coming out of India - not currently a hotbed of such open source startups, but an area I'm sure we'll be hearing more from in the future.

And as David Ascher, who heads up a new company that aims to build software based on Thunderbird, points out:

There are lots of young companies in the same space, each promoting their own angle on solving the problem that they’ve identified. There are companies playing within the Outlook/Exchange framework. There are companies coming at it with Exchange replacements. There are companies focusing on collaboration rather than communication. There are companies with a web focus, others with a mobile focus, others with a social network focus.

But as he also notes, there are very particular advantages to working in the open source space:

From the project health point of view, I think it’s good to have various companies building products off of the Mozilla codebase in general. At the very least, it means that the platform won’t get too tied to any one product’s requirements. I don’t think there’s a huge risk of that happening, because Mozilla already supports several active products (Firefox, Thunderbird, Seamonkey, Komodo, Songbird, Miro, Joost, etc.). But having more people care about the mail/news bits should at least help with the engineering work we need to do there which is product-independent. There are long-standing architectural problems with the system which haven’t been fixed because of a lack of resources. With several companies betting on this platform, as long as the discussions happen in public and in good faith, we should be able to work together to improve things for all.

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