Mozilla is working flat-out to release the first alpha version of Thunderbird 3.0, its email client.

Online discussions among developers have revealed that Mozilla Messaging, the Mozilla Foundation's second for-profit spin-off, wants to get an alpha release out as soon as April.

Dan Mosedale, a former Firefox developer doing a stint at "MoMess" (as Mozilla Messaging is dubbed) has proposed setting a tentative code-freeze date for Thunderbird 3.0a1 of Tuesday, 8 April.

"I believe that it's really worthwhile to get a release underway, Mosedale said in a thread on the group last week.

"Testers have only had nightlies for quite a while now, and the trunk is already notably better than [Thunderbird 2.0] in a number of ways," he continued. "Getting something that we're willing to recommend to a wider group of people is a great way to demonstrate real progress."

Two weeks ago, Mozilla Messaging CEO David Ascher announced that the new company would tackle Thunderbird 3.0 as its first project. Ascher said that the mail client would add calendaring and improved search, as it worked toward releasing a polished version before 2009.

Developers’ reaction to Mosedale's call for an alpha was mostly positive.

"I'm with you," said Phil Ringnalda. "If we're going to ship something, ever, we have to start doing alphas, and giving people the feeling that they don't have forever to write the code of their dreams."

Gervase Markham, a Mozilla developer, agreed. "[An alpha] also gives a solid target for extension authors," he noted. "I am reluctant to test trunk Thunderbird because there are a couple of extensions I rely on whose authors have said 'I can't support trunk; it moves too much'. Doing a 'relatively stable' alpha release allows them a fixed target, enabling long-term testing by people who don't want to track trunk that closely."

Mozilla Messaging was hived off last year from Mozilla's main commercial arm, to leave that to develop the big breadwinner, the browser Firefox. By September, Mozilla had seeded the new venture with US$3 million (£1.5 billion) in start-up funds and appointed Ascher.