Thunderbird 1.0 takes on Outlook Express, Eudora

IDG News Service |  Software

Weeks after the launch of its Firefox 1.0 Web browser, the Mozilla Foundation on Tuesday is set to release version 1.0 of its Thunderbird e-mail client.

Thunderbird 1.0 is aimed at advanced e-mail users and competes with products such as Microsoft Corp.'s Outlook Express and Qualcomm Inc.'s Eudora. The stand-alone open-source e-mail application has been in development since early 2003 and offers features such as a user-trainable junk mail filter and a built-in RSS (Really Simple Syndication) reader, according to the Mozilla Foundation.

The open-source group also promotes Thunderbird's tight security, which includes not allowing scripts to run by default and not automatically downloading images sent in an e-mail. Also, Thunderbird uses the Mozilla rendering engine to display HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) e-mail messages, not Microsoft's IE engine, making it immune to IE-related bugs.

While downloads of early versions of Thunderbird have already surpassed 1 million, the Mozilla Foundation doesn't expect Thunderbird to take off the way Firefox did, a representative for the group said. The Web browser has been downloaded just over 9 million times since Nov. 9, according to the Spread Firefox Web site.

Thunderbird has its roots in the Netscape Messenger 4.x client and the Mozilla mail and Usenet newsgroup client. Thunderbird development was led by two main engineers supported by volunteers, said Scott MacGregor, one of the engineering leads behind Thunderbird.

The Mozilla open-source project was started in early 1998 by Netscape, which was acquired later that year by America Online Inc. (AOL). Last year, the people behind Mozilla created a foundation, largely funded by a $2 million pledge from AOL, to build, support and promote Mozilla products.

Going forward, the Mozilla Foundation will further develop Thunderbird and Firefox. The two stand-alone products essentially succeed the Mozilla Suite, which includes a browser, e-mail client, HTML editor, Internet Relay Chat client and Usenet reader.

Thunderbird 1.0 initially is available only in English. Versions in about a dozen other languages should be available in a week or two, according to MacGregor. Thunderbird is available for Windows, Linux and Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh OS X operating system.

Thunderbird 1.0 should be available for free download on Tuesday at: http://www.mozilla.org/.

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