Opened 4 years ago

Last modified 12 months ago

#13462 assigned Task/To do item

Provide autoconfiguration files for Thunderbird

Reported by: JaimeV Owned by: JaimeV
Priority: Medium Component: Tech
Keywords: e-mail, thunderbird, usability Cc: Jamie McClelland
Sensitive: no


When setting up new accounts with Thunderbird most users will use the e-mail account setup wizard. For MFPL members who use their own domain for their e-mail address this process will likely fail to give them the correct configuration automatically and require manual configuration to fix.

However, there is a way for us to serve configuration files that Thunderbird can detect and ensure it creates the correct configuration for members automatically.

Adapting this to our complex setup might not be so straightforward but I think it is possible.

Change History (8)

comment:1 Changed 4 years ago by JaimeV

Owner: set to JaimeV
Status: newassigned

comment:2 Changed 4 years ago by Jamie McClelland

Nice - it looks like:

look up "MX" in DNS, and for, look up "" in the ISPDB

Would work for us, since our members domains will have an mx record pointing to us, so if we got an entry in the ISPDB it would work, right?


comment:3 Changed 4 years ago by JaimeV

I'm not sure that will work for us. The email address is the only information Thunderbird uses to make the query. With that it needs to get info about username, host,post,TLS, authentication method. Because usernames and e-mail addresses are separate in our system I think we would need to return a unique xml file for any given e-mail address. We would have to serve the xml configuration files indexed by e-mail address and each would contain the correct username along with our standard host, ports etc...

So one possible scenario is that we maintain our own centralized configuration server. All member domains would get an A type DNS record for pointing to ip of the central configuration server, really just a web server that can serve the correct xml file based on e-mail address query. Maybe the xml can even be generated dynamically although its not completely necessary. We already have a process to regenerate virtual_alias_maps anytime an e-mail address is created or changed don't we? We could do this on each host if we didn't want it centralized.

In all cases it does mean we would be creating a public method for querying the usernames associated with an e-mail address on our systems but that is exactly what makes the autoconfiguration work for our scenario.

comment:4 Changed 4 years ago by Jamie McClelland

Hm. My read of the autoconfiguration page suggests that we might be able to get away with an entry in the Mozilla hosted ISPDB.

In particular:

1. tb-install-dir/isp/ on the harddisk
2. check for
3. look up of "" in the ISPDB
4. look up "MX" in DNS, and for, look up "" in the ISPDB
5. try to guess (, etc.)

So, if the email address is, the first three lookups would fail.


0 jamie@turkey:~$ dig +short -t mx
0 jamie@turkey:~$

Means that lookup number four would return and would trigger a lookup in the ISP DB. That, in turn, could return our particular details, right?


comment:5 Changed 2 years ago by updater

Sensitive: set

Changed to sensitive as part of leadership decision to make all tickets sensitive.

comment:6 Changed 2 years ago by JaimeV

Sensitive: unset

comment:7 Changed 12 months ago by JaimeV

3 years later this is still driving members nuts.

Even if the above solution only works for Thunderbird I still think its worth trying.

Your suggestion of relying on DNS would mean adding all of our final destination MX servers to Mozilla ISPDB. We could try with just octavia to see what happens.

I prefer the idea of using the webserver to intercept requests to for each domain and then direct them to the appropriate XML file or a script that returns an XML file dynamically.

I also found some old doumentation about doing this for Outlook.

comment:8 Changed 12 months ago by Jamie McClelland

Intercepting a address seems like the best option we have, however, I don't see it referenced in any of the documentation. Am I missing it?

I do see as an option. Would it be possible to have a single web site that responds to autoconfig.* that serves a generic XML file for everyone? Then, we would just need to add a DNS entry for every domain that points to the same IP address? That doesn't sound too bad.

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