Raindrop Shadow Logo

Today Mozilla Messaging released the Raindrop project

Raindrop is an experiment in the design of a new messaging platform in the open.

What I like most about Raindrop is our process.  We started with some simple designs, created a couple iterations and now we’ve opened up the whole process to share.  This isn’t another email client or a twitter client, we have been designing for the way people communicate on the web today.  And we’re looking to make it awesome.

If you’re a developer or just have lots of patience you could grab the source code, follow the instructions and get raindrop up and running.  But that’s not what we’re launching, we’re launching the next version, the one that we design and develop in the open.  Read that again, there is no download. 🙂


Starting today, new raindrop designs will be uploaded into the Raindrop Design flickr group for discussion and review.  As designs are ready to be implemented we’ll be blogging about them in the Raindrop Design Blog.


Discussion of code and extension development takes place on the Raindrop Development Google Group.  We’re currently built on CouchDB, Python, and JavaScript(if you’re trying to get raindrop up and running make sure you read the INSTALL doc carefully)


From the ground up Raindrop was built as a set of extensions on top of extensions.  This architecture was a design choice so that others could easily continue extend on top of our work.

There are places to add Data Miners which can search messages for regular expressions and User Interface Extensions which can modify the layout and design of messages presented.

Check out James’ video on Raindrop Software Components for more on the extensions system.


Sending the right message

Mozilla Messaging has been formed! And yes, that’s me in there; I’ve made a new home with Mozilla Messaging so look forward to much more talk about email, calendaring, and communication in general. 🙂

Luis pointed out, the name born from MailCo is Mozilla Messaging, a change that I believe brings the correct focus to the coming efforts.

Since the launch I’ve been reading lots of different articles about the launch and the related comments following peoples opinions.

Here’s a mix of common threads I’m seeing from the comments.

  • Polish!
  • Calendar Integration
  • Better Search
  • Shared Calendars
  • Better LDAP
  • Conversation View (gmail mail)
  • Archiving Support
  • Encryption (make it easy and by default)
  • Phone Sync (Address Book, Text Messages, Phone Logs)
  • Better OS Integration (Windows, OSX, GNOME, KDE, etc.)
  • Better Address Book
  • Import Outlook PST, .DAT files
  • Exchange Server Support
  • Better vCard Support
  • Taggging (ala gmail)
  • Sync contacts w/ GMail, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo, etc.
  • New Mail / Reply Templates

And a very common theme is for making Thunderbird FAST AND LEAN!!

All excellent directions to look into. But that is a big list of tough items to handle all at once. I’d like to take the approach of focusing on our core goal and iterating many of these pieces as they align and become defined by our progress.

Email… and Calendaring?

David Ascher wrote an excellent entry launching Mozilla Messaging which unveiled the current plans for Thunderbird. Many comments in his blog and other articles relayed a feeling that these new Thunderbird plans would lose sight of improvements that are sorely needed to bring regular email up to speed. When actually there is a short and medium term set of fixes that need to be done in order to get the regular email experience up to speed.

In parallel to those email fixes we’ll be working on a plan of improving personal communication. There’s no secret agenda in this communications plan we’re going to be very open, honest, and looking for lots of feedback. But it includes improving calendar support inside Thunderbird, not as an additional tool to download but as another way to help people Communicate Effectively and Get Things Done.

Getting Things Done

I’ve got to make a run to the used bookstores in Central Square and look for a copy of Getting Things Done. If that doesn’t work out I’ve added that to my wishlist just in case. But email is usually a thorn in my side, I get so much of it everyday like so many other people and yet I feel like I’m fighting the tide of emails instead of sailing the seas. I like the set of mental tools that the GTD book provides for not languishing in the meta and instead diving into the guts of things and I want to see that inside my email. I want to feel a sense of control over my email again, like I used to have when I first started using email so long ago.

Extensions and innovating beyond ourselves

Since there are so many ideas out there on how to improve communication, organize email, handle attachments, integrate calendaring, and more there is no way a small team will be able to prototype all these ideas; much less implement them all. This is where extensions have to come into play. The Thunderbird extension system has fallen far behind that of Firefox and it’s constraining our communities ability to innovate in an area where so much innovation is possible. Extensions allow everyone to try to fix this problem with email and communication and it creates a vibrant feedback loop where we can all benefit; but I’ll talk more about this later.

My starry eyed view of the future of Thunderbird is a fast and lightweight platform for wrangling all my electronic communication, a supported, active, and vibrant extensions community building cool new ideas on top of an extensible platform can be tried, tested, and rolled into future releases. The future is bright.