Mozilla Will Transform K-9 Mail App into Thunderbird on Android

Posted on June 13, 2022 by Laurent Giret in Android, Cloud, Mobile with 10 Comments

Mozilla revealed today that the open-source Android email client K-9 Mail will become Thunderbird on Android. Christian Ketterer, the developer and maintainer of K-9 Mail has joined the Thunderbird team and will work on transforming the app into the Android version of Thunderbird.

K-9 Mail is a quite popular email client on Android with over 5 million downloads on the Play Store. The app has a Gmail-like interface and supports every email provider with push IMAP support and unified inboxes. Because the app already supports power user features with a shared focus on privacy and open standards, Mozilla acknowledged that taking over the K-9 Mail open source project was the easiest way to bring Thunderbird to Android.

“Thunderbird users have long been asking for Thunderbird on their Android and iOS devices. This move allows Thunderbird users to have a powerful, privacy-respecting email experience today on Android. Plus, it lets the community help shape the transition of K-9 Mail into a fully-featured mobile Thunderbird experience, the Thunderbird team announced today.

Before K-9 Mail gets rebranded to Thunderbird on Android, the team still needs to “reach certain development milestones that will bring K-9 Mail into alignment with Thunderbird’s feature set and visual appearance.” The roadmap currently includes adding support for account auto-configuration, improved folder management, support for message filters, and synchronization between the mobile app and Thunderbird on the desktop.

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Comments (10)

10 responses to “Mozilla Will Transform K-9 Mail App into Thunderbird on Android”

  1. proftheory

    Why not just call it Mozilla K-9 Mail for Android?

    • wright_is

      Branding. Mozilla want to push Thunderbird to a wider audience. Get them using Thunderbird on their phone or tablet and they might use it on the desktop.

      • dftf

        Might use it on desktop, but I'd say unlikely.

        Firefox, their biggest-product, only has a use-share of about 0.5% or lower on mobile and tablet devices -- so given that poor-showing, are they really thinking their e-mail app will be more-successful? With them desperately in-need of extra-revenue, especially with their search-deal with Google ending soon, is putting money into an e-mail app really a great idea?

        The most-likely thing I'd expect to happen would be that some people who currently use Thunderbird on a desktop OS will consider using their mobile app, once available. But I cannot see it (1) making more people then use Thunderbird on a desktop OS, or (2) give Firefox on mobile or tablet a try.

      • rmlounsbury

        Technically, Mozilla Corporation (e.g. Firefox/Pocket) is not directly related to Thunderbird anymore. The Mozilla Foundation is more directly related to Thunderbird (the open source funding arm of Mozilla Corp) but even then Thunderbird is a subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation operating via the MZLA Technology Corporation. Still fiscally under Mozilla Foundation but the project itself is pretty independent as an OSS platform anymore.

  2. benhaube

    I have actually been using Outlook for Android since it is also what I use on the desktop with my personal email and my work email. I have been really happy with it, but I may give this a try.

  3. j5

    K-9 Mail has been around forever! I used to use it on my Samsung SIII I think it was. Kind of sad to see it go away as K-9 Mail. But that's cool it's becoming part of Thunderbird.

  4. dftf

    Given Firefox already has a use-share on mobile and tablet platforms of 0.5% or lower, I'm struggling to see why a cash-strapped Mozilla thinks "let's release an e-mail app" is a good-idea?

    All of the major personal e-mail providers all have their own official apps (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo! Mail), and on iOS platforms you can use Apple's built-in Mail app also. So... who is this for, other-than the crowd of people who use Thunderbird on a desktop or laptop currently, and might also therefore consider using the same app on their Android or iOS/iPadOS device?

    • rmlounsbury

      Thunderbird has such a wonderfully complicated relationship with Mozilla. Back in 2017 Thunderbird moved off of the Mozilla Corporation umbrella of products to the Mozilla Foundation (e.g. Thunderbird's financial sponsor/manager is Mozilla Foundation -- the product itself is open source).

      Then, in 2020 Thunderbird moved from Mozilla Foundation to MZLA Technologies Corp in part due to strong independent support from the Thunderbird community allow the project to become more independent and move past the umbrella that is the Mozilla Foundation.

      So, Mozilla proper doesn't give any craps about Thunderbird. The project is mostly independent both in scope and funding. It has no direct relationship with Mozilla proper.

      There is clearly a robust enough support of the platform itself to take over an existing email client and make it "Thunderbird" for mobile. If you don't want to use it then that is fine. But there is a supportive community around it and there presumably enough people that don't want to use the default corporate app or still roll their own email that this would be useful for them (such as someone that hosts email directly via Hover).

      I use and appreciate Thunderbird and having a open source client outside of the corporate ownership of Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc...). It might be a small community but not everyone uses the heavyweights of email.

    • rmlounsbury

      Also, by merging with K-9 the Thunderbird project isn't "releasing an e-mail app." Rather, they are taking a mature mobile email client and adding on the visual bits,branding, and other value add, to make it a Thunderbird e-mail client. They aren't building something from scratch or buying something to make this happen.

      Two OSS projects working together to make an existing product better. Such a novel idea.

  5. rbwatson0

    Nine (not to be confused with K-9) is still my favorite email client on Android

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