Thunderbird Will Start Using OpenPGP Encryption in 2020

The developers of Thunderbird, one of the most-used free
email clients in the world, plan to implement OpenPGP support in 2020.

Thunderbird used to be made by Mozilla, but the company
dropped it a few years ago, and the community took over the project. The email
client is still using some of Firefox’s infrastructure.

Since Thunderbird is an open-source and cross-platform
email client, it would make sense to bundle GnuPG software, but the differences
in licenses make that impossible (MPL version 2.0 vs. GPL version 3+).  The devs have to look for another solution,
and the only to make it work is to add OpenPGP.

Thunderbird users until now only had the option to adopt
an add-on called Enigmail, which provides data encryption for both the email
client and SeaMonkey. When Thunderbird migrates to a newer code, though, the Enigmail
add-on will stop working.

“We intend to identify and use another existing library
that provides support for creating and processing OpenPGP messages, and we will
try to reuse parts of Enigmail that aren’t specific to GnuPG. However, we’ll
need to rethink several aspects, from user interface to trust models, to key
management and key exchange,” explained the
developers.

The 2020 timeframe gives the Thunderbird team ample time
to come up with a working solution that covers the existing Enigmail, for which
there are more than plenty. Enigmail developer Patrick Brunschwig is also helping
the Thunderbird development team make the switch.

Mozilla Thunderbird 78 is expected to arrive in the
summer of 2020, and the existing 68.x branch will be actively maintained until
autumn 2020.

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