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How Google Might Lose In Software: Joel On Software

By - September 18, 2007

Read this, it’s quite thought provoking. Especially for old journalists like me who actually covered Lotus 1-2-3.

And your programmers are like, jeez louise, GMail is huge, we can’t port GMail to this stupid NewSDK. We’d have to change every line of code. Heck it’d be a complete rewrite; the whole programming model is upside down and recursive and the portable programming language has more parentheses than even Google can buy. The last line of almost every function consists of a string of 3,296 right parentheses. You have to buy a special editor to count them.

And the NewSDK people ship a pretty decent word processor and a pretty decent email app and a killer Facebook/Twitter event publisher that synchronizes with everything, so people start using it.

And while you’re not paying attention, everybody starts writing NewSDK apps, and they’re really good, and suddenly businesses ONLY want NewSDK apps, and all those old-school Plain Ajax apps look pathetic and won’t cut and paste and mash and sync and play drums nicely with one another. And Gmail becomes a legacy. The WordPerfect of Email. And you’ll tell your children how excited you were to get 2GB to store email, and they’ll laugh at you. Their nail polish has more than 2GB.

Crazy story? Substitute “Google Gmail” with “Lotus 1-2-3”.


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5 thoughts on “How Google Might Lose In Software: Joel On Software

  1. David McDonald says:

    Joel’s posts are always thought provoking, and this one is no different. With Moore’s Law now supposedly nearing it’s limits, maybe the cycle Joel talks about may be broken soon?

  2. Adam says:

    But Joel’s post isn’t concerned with Moore’s Law as it relates to processing speeds increasing, rather it’s the increase in speed of the bandwidth (which at least in the US is no where near its limits).

    Looking forward to watching this trend develop.

  3. William Pietri says:

    One of the possible differences is the rise of automated testing and other sorts of programmer support. These are made possible by the same massive growth in processor power Joel talks about.

    With good automated tests and automated refactoring tools, it’s possible to develop in such a way that rewriting or porting an application is much easier than it used to be.

    That’s the notion behind agile methods like Extreme Programming: if you keep your cost of change low, then you’re more likely to be able to handle whatever comes along.

    We’ll see if GMail’s engineers were smart enough to build that way.

  4. blah says:

    NewSDK is already here — Adobe’s Flex.

  5. Graham says:

    Not sure why Joel is comparing GMail to Lotus. Google has already lost in the web-based email space: remember Yahoo and Hotmail?