thunderbird on ubuntu
Thunderbird is Ubuntu’s default email app …for now.

I use Gmail and chances are you do too, and if you don’t you probably still use a web-mail provider, like Yahoo!, Outlook, or ProtonMail.

Which begs the question: does Ubuntu really need to ship with a traditional desktop email app?

“In 2011, we switched Ubuntu’s default email client from Evolution to Thunderbird. Six years later, I think it’s time to take another look,” reads an email posted to the Ubuntu desktop mailing list today.

The aim of that mail? To engender fresh discussion on the kinds of apps that are offered in Ubuntu by default.

Not including a email app with Ubuntu is not without merit.

‘This discussion is not suggesting email apps are bunk, it simply asks if one needs to be there by default’

GNOME’s Michael Catanzaro suggests (emphasis ours) that, for an ideal ‘pure GNOME’ experience, a distro shouldn’t ship an email client by default because, right now, there isn’t one that’s both well-maintained and well-integrated with GNOME.

What This Discussion Isn’t…

Now, before anyone gets their underwear in a bunch over this allow me to emphasise that this discussion is not suggesting that desktop email apps are bunk.

Many, many people across many, many operating systems use a desktop email app day in, day out. And enterprise Ubuntu users who rely on Thunderbird aren’t going to have the app yanked out from in front of them.

No, the debate is framed around whether enough desktop Ubuntu users find Thunderbird useful enough for one to be given a prized slot on the install disc.

Thunderbird is now maintained by the community but the app is starting to show its age. Changes in the upstream Mozilla codebase (like the upcoming switch to Web Extensions) are likely to have a knock on effect on Thunderbird’s maintenance.

Evolution, for all its merits, isn’t universally loved despite being the go-to mail app for GNOME fans. And Geary, a favourite of mine, and a fantastically usable app, primarily caters to a specific sort of e-mail user and workflow.

With no one-size-fits-all candidate available, might it not be better to let the user decide which one they want to use instead of assuming they will want to use one at all?

After all, this is why apps like Empathy and Brasero are no longer installed by default.

Discussions on what Ubuntu should (or shouldn’t) include in its post-Unity guise is only just getting underway.

And whether you care about this topic or not you should expect to see plenty more discussion, debate, and community involvement on other changes in Ubuntu over the coming months.

Dev evolution gnome thunderbird