June 2, 2005 10:59 AM PDT

Thunderbird gets podcasting support

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.

4 comments

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Losing focus
An email client is just that, an email client. Stuff like RSS and newsgroups fit in that, but expanding it further, dilutes the focus. It also adds bloat, and introduces the possibility of security issues.

If they want to create something that deals with these podcasts, build a seperate app.

Look at nearly every piece of MS software, some of them used to be good(office, IE) now they are a bloated security mess because they added needless features.

This trend of throwing everything, including the kitchen sink into software, needs to stop.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
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Thunderbird is not for you
If all you want is simple e-mail, then that's not what Thunderbird is, and that's not what it's going to be.

If you closely followed the developments around the Mozilla client you would know that they are planning to position Thunderbird to go up against Outlook, just like they've done with Firefox and IE.

Thunderbird will and in my opinion should have many features, including a calendar with PIM (Lightning project, this might end up separate as an extension that thorouughly extends the GUI and funtionality of Thunderbird), RSS support, a newsreader, and yes, support for Podcasting.

And they will continue to improve on the e-mail features. Security will still remain the #1 priority, as with everything Mozilla does.
Posted by ivand67 (40 comments )
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