Future OpenPGP Support in Thunderbird

Patrick Brunschwig patrick at enigmail.net
Tue Oct 8 09:08:13 CEST 2019

The Thunderbird developers have announced that they will implement
OpenPGP support in Thunderbird 78 [1]. Support for Thunderbird in
Enigmail will therefore be discontinued.

I'd like to explain in the following paragraphs what this will mean for
Enigmail, and why this is an inevitable step.

The Future of Enigmail
I will continue to support and maintain Enigmail for Thunderbird 68
until 6 months after Thunderbird 78 will have been released (i.e. a few
months beyond Thunderbird 68 EOL). Enigmail will not run anymore on
Thunderbird 72 beta and newer.

Will this be the end of Enigmail?

No! I will continue to maintain and support Enigmail for Postbox, which
is running on a different release schedule than Thunderbird for the
foreseeable future.

Why Is This Happening?
The Mozilla developers have been and still are actively working on
removing old code from their code base. This affects not only
Thunderbird itself, but also add-ons. While it was possible for
Thunderbird to keep old "legacy" add-ons alive for a certain time, the
time has come for Thunderbird to stop supporting them [2]. Thunderbird
78 will no longer to support the APIs that Enigmail requires and only
allow new "WebExtensions".

WebExtensions have a completely different API than classical add-ons,
and a much reduced set of capabilities to hook into the user interface.
For Enigmail to continue to work, it would therefore be required to
rewrite it from scratch. However, that's beyond my available time

The Thunderbird developers and I have therefore agreed that it's much
better to implement OpenPGP support directly in Thunderbird. The set of
functionalities will be different than what Enigmail offers, and at
least initially likely be less feature-rich. But in my eyes, this is by
far outweighed by the fact that OpenPGP will be part of Thunderbird and
no add-on and no third-party tool will be required.


[2] https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/tb-planning/-E8Yw6POxEE

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