I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of Thunderbird, and what areas we should invest in in addition to the obvious ones like long-term maintainability, user experience, and the like. One area which is growing in importance in my mind is what’s referred to as “contacts”. By that I don’t mean the current address book features in Thunderbird, which are useful, and a starting point, but minimal. I mean something much more connected, much more central to what the user experience of a communications client should be.
After all, we don’t send emails to email addresses. We send emails to friends, family, colleagues, partners, bosses. We mostly don’t read corporate blogs, we read the blogs of our friends, idols, and enemies. We don’t send instant messages to aliases, but to significant others, co-conspirators, and other people.
What this means for Thunderbird’s future is still to be figured out, but I thought I’d mention it today because I saw this story from InfoWorld about a Yahoo initiative called oneConnect, which seems to be along similar lines of thought as my own, including interoperation with various social networking to build up a fuller picture of one’s true relationships, which is richer than any one provider’s perspective.
There’s one major distinction between my vision and the one oneConnect seems to promote, which is that I think individuals should be at the center of their own “social manifold”, not Yahoo, or Yahoo/Microsoft, or Google, or any other central party. And that’s a place where I think Mozilla’s approach, whether through the use of desktop software or hosted storage of client-side encrypted data, is the approach worth advocating. Individuals should be able to choose to trust providers to store that data for them, or not. And they should be able to change their mind as to the state of those trust relationships, especially given this heady M&A frenzy.
In particular, consider the implications of something like Yahoo’s oneConnect and the possible Yahoo/Microsoft merger, given this other story from Fortune about Microsoft’s approach to data portability.
Josh Quittner summarizes his perspective as: “My contacts should belong to me”. Couldn’t have said it better myself.