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Mozilla's messaging story gains credibility

Mozilla has long been associated with the Firefox browser, but recent announcements suggest that it has staying power in messaging.

Mozilla isn't just about browsing anymore.

While the foundation made its name with the increasingly popular open-source Firefox browser, it is quickly moving beyond its roots, particularly in the area of e-mail. With the launch of Raindrop, its Google Wave-like unified messaging and collaboration system, as well as corporate uptake of Thunderbird, Mozilla may soon extend its reach well beyond its browser base.

Corporate America hasn't done much with Mozilla's Thunderbird, a competitor to Microsoft Outlook. Europe, however, has given it a warm reception. For example, the French tax authority recently selected Thunderbird to power 130,000 of its personal computers, replacing IBM Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook.

It's a massive deal for Mozilla, though in the grand scheme of things, it's still tiny. Even so, it's an indication that Mozilla's e-mail story is credible, and could lead to greater adoption of Thunderbird and, eventually, Raindrop.

Much of Firefox's early traction was in Europe. The same could hold true for Thunderbird and Raindrop.

The question for me, however, is how it gets funded. Google has essentially funded Mozilla's browser development for years. It's unclear who the "Google" is for Mozilla's messaging ambitions, or whether the foundation intends to sell subscriptions to use the software through its for-profit corporation.

Regardless, Mozilla's presence in the messaging market is welcome. While we already have an exceptional open-source competitor to Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino in Zimbra, given the importance of messaging and collaboration to enterprise computing, it's useful to have an open-source foundation involved, too. About the only organizations that won't like this increased competition are the proprietary incumbents.