August 12, 2022
Enlarge / K-9 Mail will become Thunderbird for Android in time.

The open source Thunderbird email client has a long and storied history, but until now, that history has been limited to the desktop. That’s about to change, according to a post on the Thunderbird blog. Thunderbird will be coming to Android through the popular open source mobile email client K-9 Mail.

According to Thunderbird’s Jason Evangelho, the Thunderbird team has acquired the source code and naming rights to K-9 Mail. K-9 Mail project maintainer Christian Ketterer (who goes by “cketti” in the OSS community) will join the Thunderbird team, and over time, K-9 Mail will become Thunderbird for Android.

Thunderbird’s team will invest finance and development time in K-9 to add several features and quality-of-life enhancements before that happens, though. The blog post lists these bullets on the features road map:

  • Account setup using Thunderbird account auto-configuration
  • Improved folder management
  • Support for message filters
  • Syncing between desktop and mobile Thunderbird

Once certain development milestones are reached, and K-9 Mail has been satisfactorily brought “into alignment with Thunderbird’s feature set and visual appearance,” K-9 Mail will be rebranded as Thunderbird. The blog post doesn’t identify a specific timeline for this transition.

A FAQ on the Thunderbird website answers some questions about which features may be included in the mobile app, why the team decided against building a new app from scratch, and so on.

Naturally, the team is inviting users to install K-9 Mail and provide feedback on its ongoing development. There are likely to be many changes, big and small, coming to the app in the next several months as the team works its way through the new road map.

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Thunderbird was first launched with the name Minotaur. But the email client known as Thunderbird goes back to 2003. It was intended as an email client companion to Mozilla’s Firefox browser. But as the years have gone on, Firefox became Mozilla’s main focus—especially as web-based email apps became increasingly dominant.