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Will Penelope be the death of Thunderbird?

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(happygeek)
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Qualcomm is best known for two things: making mobile phone chips and owning the once hugely popular Eudora email client software. Or perhaps I should say once owning the once hugely popular Eudora email client software as Qualcomm stopped selling it back in May and handed over the codebase to the open source community. The Beta 1.0 release is now available for download under the new name of Penelope.

Surprisingly this is being developed and distributed under the Mozilla Foundation wing. Surprising because just a couple of months ago the Mozilla CEO was talking up Firefox and talking down Thunderbird, the original Mozilla email client. One wonders how Mozilla will be able to put the kind of effort into developing, distributing and promoting Penelope if it feels that Thunderbird was taking too much organisational focus away from browser development?

"We intend to produce a version of Eudora that is open source and based on Mozilla and Thunderbird. It's not our intention to compete with Thunderbird; rather, we want to complement it." So says a statement at the official Mozilla Penelope website, but it's really very hard to understand how that can be the case. What is the point in splitting the development effort between two email clients, one of which is based in part on the other? Everyone knows that if you dilute beer you end up with a weak and weedy mess, not a better beer.

"It is our goal to build a single development community around Thunderbird and Eudora, so that both mailers advance faster than they previously have." Again, more nonsense from the Mozilla folk, it just does not compute.

Of course, that Eudora codebase is a valuable asset. Unlike Thunderbird which has received mixed reviews over the years, Eudora pretty much always did very well indeed no matter who was reviewing it or the competition it was up against. And for good reason: in its day it really was an innovative and feature packed client. First developed in the late 80's, Eudora quickly became the email software of choice for the Internet baby boomer, and you could could count them in the tens of millions back in the day. But that day would appear to have long since passed though, otherwise you can bet your bottom dollar that Qualcomm would still be selling it, not giving the code away for the open-source community to play with.

I wish Penelope luck, because I was one of those millions of happy Eudora users and would be really happy were it to rise again to such prominence. However, unless Mozilla can sort out where its email development allegiance lays, I cannot see it happening. All I can see is both Thunderbird and Penelope fading into the distance as webmail service such as Gmail continue to flourish…

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Davey Winder

I'm a hacker turned writer and consultant, specialising in IT security. I've been a freelance word punk for over 20 years and along the way I have seen 23 of my books published, produced and presented programmes for TV and radio, picked up a bunch of awards and continue being a contributing editor with PC Pro - the best selling IT magazine in the UK .

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mecrider
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Maybe this will become the new nest that Thunderbird has been looking for. That wouldn't bother me if they can get Linux support incorporated. At this point, even though Qualcomm lists Mark Charlebois, a Linux developer/Thunderbird user, as part of their team (and he is listed on addons.mozilla.org as the author of the Penelope extension for Thunderbird), Jeff Beckley says "the team wishes it was, but it's a matter of finding the right help for the job."

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