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Michael Tsai – Blog – Lessons From 6 Software Rewrite Stories



Herb Caudill (via David Heinemeier Hansson ):

Netscape’s disastrous 5.0 / 6.0 rewrite is the original poster for "never rewrite", thanks to Joel. […] Mozilla, the open-source community that Netscape had created, would go on to release the Firefox browser in 2004 – after another ground-up rewrite. Firefox did manage to gain some market share from Microsoft.

[…]

They rewrote Basecamp from scratch and it turned out great. It took around a year, and new signups doubled immediately following the release of Basecamp 2. […] So they presented Basecamp 2 as a completely new product, with no guarantees that it would be backwards compatible with Basecamp Classic. […] This brings us to the second interesting thing they did, which was that they didn't have their own sunset product.

[…]

Visual Studio is a heavyweight product in every sense: It can take upwards or half an hour to install. It has to support a wide variety of complex use cases relied on by enterprise customers. So it wouldn't have made sense to use Visual Studio itself as a starting point, for Microsoft to add features to adding features. And presumably the idea of ​​making Mac or Linux versions of Visual Studio was a non-starter. So Microsoft started from scratch with no guarantees of backwards compatibility.

[…]

Inbox gave the Gmail team a way to experiment with features without disrupting workflows for the fixed majority of users who didn't choose to switch over. By using the same back end, though, Gmail puts hard limits on their own ability to innovate.

[…]

One response, of course, would have been to Basecamp did: Take everything Fog Creek had learned about bug tracking, and reinvent FogBugz, starting from a clean slate.
Presumably this was a nonstarter, you know, because of all the things you should never do and worst strategic mistake stuff. […] In the meantime, FogBugz languished in obscurity.

[…]

Shortly afterwards they lifted the veil of secrecy: They let BillSpring know that the product was now FreshBooks, and let existing FreshBooks know that a new version would soon be available . Little by little, "FreshBooks Classic" was invited to try the new upgrade ̵

1; but they didn't have to, and they could always migrate to the more familiar version if they wanted.

Previously:

Basecamp BillSpring Business Firefox FogBugz FreshBooks Gmail History Script Netscape Visual Studio Code Wasabi Web

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