Thunderbird gets podcasting support

Mozilla developers say the open-source e-mail client will deal with Podcast-type content and offer improved antiphishing.

Developers of the Mozilla Foundation's open-source e-mail client have added a podcasting feature to its arsenal and improved its defense against phishing attacks.

The changes were highlighted Tuesday in a Mozilla blog that discussed modifications to the software before its upcoming 1.1 release. They are not available in the current 1.0.2 release.

Podcasting is a recent Internet phenomenon which takes its name from Apple Computer's iPod digital audio player. Podcast creators publish sound files online that are then downloaded by interested parties. The technique uses RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, which allows simple forms of content such as blogs to be repetitively syndicated across the Internet and has enabled many people to reach a global audience with self-published radio shows.

Thunderbird already supports RSS feeds as they are commonly used by blogs, but a new patch will deal with Podcast-type content by opening a dialog box through which the user can summon a helper application such as a Web browser or audio player.

The antiphishing feature attempts to detect and warn about incoming e-mail-based scams that prompt users to enter information such as Internet banking login details or credit card numbers. Since January, the feature has detected dodgy Internet address data, but it will now also pick up any e-mail that requires information to be entered via an HTML form.

Large Web-based e-mail sites such as Microsoft's Hotmail and Google's Gmail have recently implemented a similar feature that will warn users.

Other key planned features for the 1.1 release include an improved spell-check engine that would operate as a person types, the ability to automate the software updating process, and improved integration with antivirus applications for users of e-mail boxes based on the POP3 standard.

A number of smaller changes will involve user interface changes, the ability to save space by deleting attachments from stored e-mail, and an automatic "save as draft" feature.

While the list of features for the e-mail client is still a long way behind offerings like Microsoft's Outlook and even other open-source clients such as Evolution, Mozilla has long-term plans in place to improve it.

Developers list close collaboration with the Lightning Project--which aims to integrate the open-source Sunbird calendaring solution into Thunderbird--as an agenda item for the far-off Thunderbird 2.0 release. They would also like to "solve the information overload problem" common to heavy e-mail users by looking into implementing a tabbed solution similar to the one used by Web browsers such as Firefox, Opera and some third-party Internet Explorer add-ons.

Renai LeMay of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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