Mozilla gives sneak peak of Thunderbird e-mail app

The release follows the launch of Mozilla's Firefox browser version 1.0

The Mozilla Foundation has unveiled the most complete preview version yet of its stand-alone e-mail application. The release comes only weeks after the launch of Version 1.0 of its Firefox browser and is part of the open-source software project's continuing efforts to chip away market share from Microsoft Corp.'s dominant Internet Explorer.

The release candidate of Thunderbird 1.0 e-mail management software, launched yesterday, is being positioned as similar to Microsoft's free end-user application Outlook Express, but without the user hassles of dealing with advertisements and spam.

Before the official release of Thunderbird 1.0, slated for Dec. 7, the group is offering the preview version of the free client for last-minute testing. Based on the Mozilla code base, Thunderbird 1.0 works with most operating systems, including Windows, Linux and Macintosh, the group said.

The Mozilla Foundation has said in the past that it aims to capture between 10% and 12% of the Web browser market by the end of next year. It has already been able to eke out a 3% share through its preview versions of Firefox, though Microsoft's Internet Explorer continues to hoard as much as 95% of the market, according to figures from Web analytics firm WebSideStory Inc.

Thunderbird is part of that overall effort, although Outlook Express is far from being Mozilla's only competition among e-mail clients, with Yahoo Inc. (Yahoo Mail), Google Inc. (Gmail) and Microsoft (Hotmail) all offering popular and free Web-based e-mail services.

Mozilla believes it can woo users over to Thunderbird with features such as the ability to choose among three message views and to customize toolbar buttons. It also offers an integrated Usenet newsgroup reader and security features such as not allowing scripts to run by default.

The Mozilla Foundation, based in Mountain View, Calif., is a nonprofit organization created in July 2003 to support the Mozilla open-source software project. Mozilla was originally created at Netscape Communications Corp. in 1998, which has since been acquired by media conglomerate Time Warner Inc.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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