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Thunderbird’s New Rust Integration: The Future of Email Clients?

Thunderbird’s next major release includes Rust integration for improved Microsoft Exchange support, eliminating the need for third-party add-ons.

Thunderbird, the widely-used open-source email client, has revealed that its upcoming major release, slated for July, will incorporate components developed using the Rust programming language.

Among the new features is the implementation of the Microsoft Exchange Web Services (EWS) mail protocol, which will enhance Thunderbird’s compatibility with Microsoft Exchange servers. This built-in EWS implementation will eliminate the need for third-party add-ons, offering a more cohesive experience for users.

The decision to employ Rust in implementing the EWS protocol will yield several benefits. Rust is renowned for its memory safety, which will minimize the occurrence of memory-related errors. Moreover, Rust has demonstrated superior performance compared to JavaScript add-ons, resulting in a quicker and more responsive Thunderbird. Furthermore, the integration of Rust into Thunderbird will be facilitated by the fact that it is already utilized in Firefox, enabling Thunderbird to leverage existing infrastructure for testing and continuous integration.

However, there are also some potential drawbacks to incorporating Rust support. The expansion of the codebase and the necessity to create missing bindings may present challenges. Additionally, certain asynchronous handlers that are incompatible with Rust’s asynchronous operations model will need to be adapted to function with Rust code.

Beyond the Rust integration, the July release of Thunderbird will introduce several other new features. These include support for synchronizing settings across systems via linking to a Mozilla Account, a transition to a new global message storage database, and the continuation of the Card View development, a vertical layout of the message list designed for mobile interfaces. Additionally, the release will offer full dark mode support for messages and images, new Folder Pane features, and the creation of Account Hub, a unified point for configuring all accounts. The release will also integrate the built-in machine translation engine Firefox Translate.

These features are expected to arrive in Thunderbird 116 in July. You can learn more in the documentation if you plan to implement Rust components for Thunderbird.

Via Thunderbird Blog

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