Some time ago, I found this cool plugin for Thunderbird (2.x at the time) : MessageFaces (or on Mozilla Addons). It made email conversations much less impersonal by showing images of the persons that I was having an email conversation with. The beauty of the system was that I didn’t have to do anything: images were gathered from gravatar.com, X-faces, or embedded PNG images.
Then Thunderbird 3 came along, and busted quite a bit of plugins. Sadly for me, both MessageFaces and Lightning, the calendar plugin, ceased to work. This spurred quite some controversy as users thought a plugin as important as Lightning should have been cared for more by the Thunderbird developers. Two possibilities were considered:
- included in the Thunderbird 3 program
- made compatible on release
I don’t think inclusion in the program was a good idea. As a plugin, Lightning can release at it’s own pace, without being hurried or slowed down by the Thunderbird release schedule. The latest MessageFaces release however dates from 2007, and a new version compatible with Thunderbird doesn’t seem in the works.
On the horizon
Luckily, a new plugin is being developed, and it is called “Display Contact Photo“. Not really catchy, but when it works you don’t hear me complaining.
Installation on Thunderbird 3.0.1 is fast and easy. When running the program, I couldn’t help noticing that I still have to add all the pictures myself. If I wanted, I could add the Gravatar URLs myself (an explanation on how the URL is constructed can be found here – basically the MD5 hash of the mail address is used), but it’s on the wishlist.
Summing it up
the good news is that there’s a new plugin at the horizon that promises the functionality we seek. The bad news is that the gravatar functionality isn’t there yet.
Definitely a plugin to keep en eye on.