Mozilla introduces email for Android devices

MozillaComment today announced a new email client for Android devices called K-9 Mail. The mobile app will be launched as part of Mozilla’s Thunderbird family of open-source messaging and chat apps.

K-9 mail is not new. The source code of it was first released in 2008, and MZLA Technologies acquired it and its trademarks and hired K-9 Mail’s open source project maintainer as a full developer, time to improve the app and help it in its gradual transition to Thunderbird. portable.

MZLA Technologies, a subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation, said it is also currently evaluating the development of a K-9 email client for iOS devices.


The MZLA Technologies development team plans to improve the email feature set to become more similar to that of its Thunderbird desktop email client.

These planned improvements include account setup with automatic Thunderbird account setup, as well as folder management, message filter support, and syncing between desktop and mobile versions of Thunderbird, Mozilla said. (K-9 Mail can be downloaded from these various websites.)

“Ultimately, K-9 Mail on Android will morph into Thunderbird once certain development milestones are reached, closely aligning it with Thunderbird’s feature set and visual appearance,” said Christian Ketterer, K-9 Mail project lead. a blog post. (Ketterer is better known as cketti in the Mozilla open source developer community.)

Thunderbird is a free and open-source email, calendar, newsfeed, and chat client with over 20 million active monthly users on Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Currently, Android mobile device users have a range of email and chat options, including Google’s Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, and ProtonMail, an end-to-end encrypted email service.

Ryan Lee Sipes, Thunderbird Product Manager, said that working with the Thunderbird messaging team to develop the new mobile client made more sense than building a mobile client from scratch. “Joining the Thunderbird family allows K-9 to become more sustainable and gives us the resources to implement features and fixes that our users have been requesting for a long time,” 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 so users can securely sync accounts between Thunderbird and K-9. The feature is scheduled to be implemented in summer 2023.

Andrew Cornwall, a 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 inboxes. 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 on Google Play with over 5 million downloads,” Cornwall said.

However, development of K-9 had stalled and the code was essentially in “maintenance mode,” he noted. In January, a new version 6,000 was released on the Play Store, a decision that surprised many users. The release featured an updated user interface that focused on a single inbox rather than multiple inboxes. Rather than being well received, the focus angered many existing users, Cornwall said.

Another issue for existing K-9 Mail users was support for OAuth2, an authorization protocol that allows the client to access user email resources without sharing passwords.

“This is an ongoing complaint (since at least 2015) and the issue has now been accelerated: Google has disabled the traditional method most K-9 Mail users used to access their Gmail,” Cornwall said. “Users end up with two-factor authentication workarounds for Gmail and no real workaround for Outlook when organizations require OAuth2 login.”

Overall, Mozilla’s launch of K-9 Mail will be welcome to its existing users, many of whom use Thunderbird on their desktops for a similar multi-inbox workflow, Cornwall said.

“Today, some K-9 Mail users switched to using K-9 Mail for their non-Gmail email and the Google Gmail app to verify Gmail. The idea of ​​a new Google Play version of Mozilla with Oauth2 fixes might be an encouragement that existing users should stick with,” he said.

K-9 will be similar to the current Thunderbird desktop app with the exception of a few features.

Thunderbird for Android will initially not support calendars, tasks, feeds or chats like the desktop app, wrote cketti in a Q&A in his blog post. Ketterer said the development team is first working on “an amazing messaging experience” and considering how best to bring Thunderbird’s other features to Android. “But currently [we] are still discussing how best to achieve this.

For example, he wrote that one way to take advantage of 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 teams and communities and then decide what the best approach is,” Ketterer wrote.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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