MozillaComment today announced a new email client for Android devices called K-9 Mail. The mobile app is launched as part of Mozilla’s Thunderbird family of open source messaging and chat apps.
K-9 Mail is not new. The source code was first released in 2008 and MZLA Technologies acquired it and its brands and hired the maintainer of the K-9 Mail open source project as a full developer. It’s time to improve the app and help it gradually transition to Thunderbird. portable.
MZLA Technologies, a subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation, said it is currently considering developing a K-9 email client for iOS devices.
The development team at MZLA Technologies plans to enhance the email feature set to more closely resemble that of the Thunderbird desktop email client.
These planned improvements include account setup using Thunderbird auto account setup, as well as folder management, support for message filters, and synchronization between desktop and mobile versions of Thunderbird, Mozilla said. (K-9 Mail is available for download through these various sites.)
“Eventually, K-9 Mail will morph into Thunderbird on Android once certain development milestones are reached, which will closely align it with Thunderbird’s feature set and visual appearance,” said Christian Ketterer, project manager by K-9 Mail. a blog post. (Ketterer is best known in the Mozilla open source developer community as cketti.)
Thunderbird is a free, open source email, calendar, newsfeed, and chat client with over 20 million monthly active users on Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Currently, Android mobile device users have a number of email and chat options, including Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, and Google’s ProtonMail, an end-to-end encrypted email service.
Ryan Lee Sipes, Thunderbird product manager, said working with the Thunderbird messaging team to develop the new mobile client made more sense than developing a mobile client from scratch. “Joining the Thunderbird family allows the K-9 to become more sustainable and gives us the resources to implement features and fixes our users have long requested,” said Sipes. “In other words, K-9 Mail will reach greater heights with the help of Thunderbird.
Mozilla plans to offer Firefox Sync as an option to allow users to securely sync accounts between Thunderbird and K-9. The feature is expected to be rolled out in the summer of 2023.
Andrew Cornwall, senior analyst at research firm Forrester, called the K-9 Mail announcement “significant”.
“K-9 was one of the first third-party email clients on Android and developed a large user base among users who needed to keep track of multiple mailboxes. About ten years ago, it was among the most recommended third-party email clients. for Android and many longtime users have followed it. To date it is listed with over 5 million downloads on Google Play, ”Cornwall said.
Development of K-9, however, had stalled and the code was essentially in “maintenance mode,” he noted. A new version 6,000 was released on the Play Store in January, a decision that surprised many users. The release included an updated user interface focusing on a single mailbox rather than multiple mailboxes. Instead of being well received, the attention has upset many existing users, Cornwall said.
Another concern for existing K-9 mail users was support for OAuth2, an authorization protocol that allows the client to access users’ email resources without sharing passwords.
“This is an ongoing complaint (since at least 2015) and the problem has now been forced: Google has disabled the traditional way most K-9 mail users log into their Gmail,” Cornwall said. “Users end up with workarounds involving two-factor authentication for Gmail and no real workaround for Outlook when organizations need OAuth2 access.”
Overall, Mozilla’s adoption of K-9 Mail will be welcome for its existing users, many of whom use Thunderbird on their desktops for similar multi-inbox workflow, Cornwall said.
“Today some K-9 Mail users have switched to using K-9 Mail for their non-Gmail emails and the Google Gmail app to verify Gmail. The idea of a new version of Mozilla’s Google Play with Oauth2 fixes it could be the encouragement that existing users should stay, “he said.
K-9 will be similar to the current Thunderbird desktop app except for a few features.
Thunderbird for Android won’t initially support calendars, tasks, feeds, or chats like the desktop app, he wrote in a question and answer included in his blog post. Ketterer said the developer team was first working on an “amazing messaging experience” and considering how best to deliver Thunderbird’s other features on Android. “But currently [we] they are still debating how best to achieve this.
For example, he wrote, one method for being able to use Thunderbird’s desktop email feature set is to simply sync calendars and then users can use their favorite calendar app on their device.
“But we need to discuss this within the Thunderbird and K-9 team and communities and then decide which approach is best,” wrote Ketterer.
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