Is software bound to bloat over time? 16:40 on Friday

Do you know any software that is over ten years old and has not bloated into a mess of features on top of features?

Many think Microsoft Word 5.1 was the last manageable version of the program, and now people are starting to search for non-bloated alternatives for one of the best apps ever built, PhotoShop. Heck, even Adobe themselves offer a leaner version of the app (PhotoShop Elements) and are working on a narrower application (Lightroom).

I’ve used BBEdit for years and kind of bonded with it. I’ve loved its simplicity and no-nonsense approach to editing raw text files and nothing more. But a few months ago I switched from BBEdit to a younger, slimmer, and more flexible editor, TextMate.

It’s easy to say bloat accumulates by time, when code gets old, platforms change, people change, and code is rewritten by people who didn’t originally write it. But I wonder if bloat is really caused more by deteriorating vision of the product or by deteriorating code base.

I recommend also checking out 37 Signals’ new book Getting Real and the chapters that deal with the importance of having a vision for a [web app]¬†product.

2 Responses to “Is software bound to bloat over time?”


  1. Miika Kuisma Says:


    At least when talking about M$ Office products the truth is 95% of all users are using less than 5% of those features that cost 85% of the package. I find MS Word 2.0 more than enough for everyday tasks.

    Sometimes it feels like even those basic (= most used) features are getting less and less usable by every release.. Like can you imagine how much “usefull” data there is included within a simple copy+paste operation? A lot! Also did you ever realise that simple .doc file including just text “Hello World” takes 24kb of disc space and contains that “Hello World” phrase 4 times inside the file :) No that’s what I call Microsoft-way-of-optimizing stuff.

    PS. Old software runs on old computer as well as new software on new computer.

  2. Niko Says:

    Helloo Miika! ;)

    I believe old software ran better on old computers than new software on new computers. There wasn’t much waiting for the UI when I used my Amiga with a 7Mhz processor. That’s around 570 times less than on my dual G5. Even my phone is technically running over 30 times faster than the Amiga. And that if anything is unbelievable.

    Funny you mentioned the copy+paste thing. There’s been some discussion about it lately, probably started by Anil Dash’s post on reinventing copy & paste.