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Mozilla's popular Thunderbird e-mail client abandons millions of users

Editorial Staff

Microsoft's policy of forcing users who have purchased licences for their operating system, Windows, by abandoning support (including security support) has now reached the millions of users who continue to rely on Windows XP and Vista. Now, Mozilla, which produces the very popular Thunderbird e-mail client and upon which many businesses rely, has released its latest version, 60, and announced that it, too, is to abandon users of these widely used operating systems.

In the release notes for Thunderbird 60, a significant update to the software which has been developing in leaps and bounds over recent years, it says

"End of support for Windows XP and Vista

Consistent with the withdrawal of support for Windows XP and Vista for Firefox 60, Thunderbird no longer supports these two legacy operating systems. Thunderbird 52 is the last version of Thunderbird available for those two operating systems."

It uses that term "support" which, even thirty-odd years after software companies reversed the ordinary meaning of the word, still sounds strange. What it means to say is simple: if you use Windows XP or Vista, you cannot use versions of Thunderbird after 52 because it depends on aspects of the operating system (that's why the word "support" is upside down as it is used by software companies) and those aspects differ across the versions of Windows. What it also means is this: Microsoft has already announced "End of Support" (which actually means support in the sense that the company maintains the security and stability of the version) on 14 January 2020.

Thunderbird 52 was released in April 2017. Even that version "designed out" those small businesses that use older computers: it would not run on any Windows Operating System where the processor was older than a Pentium 4.

Thunderbird has never had an official 64 Bit version for Windows. In the most recent release of the sister program, the enormously popular Firefox browser, the integration with Java has been removed, leaving users of the 64 Bit version struggling with websites where Java is a feature. However, there is a full 64 Bit version of Thunderbird for users of Linux. It's the latest version and it's not subject to the "end of life" problem that will befall users of Windows OS in just over one year's time. However, it appears that it is still not available for anyone using older computers with Pentium 4 processors.

Pentium 4 was produced from November 2000 until August 2008. There are still processors in the supply chain as an internet search shows. Moreover, as businesses send their older PCs out for recycling or re-use, the processor has considerable life in it, especially in developing countries, schools, etc. Indeed, for the vast majority of uses, processors older than P4 are perfectly acceptable, especially for those who do not need the latest versions of functional software such as word processors, spreadsheets, etc.

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