Don’t Rewrite From Scratch

This article turned up back during the .com madness of 2000. At the time, I found it rather insightful, but the concepts apply just as well to my preferred profession, microchip design, as they do to software. From Things You Should Never Do, Part I.

Netscape 6.0 is finally going into its first public beta. There never was a version 5.0. The last major release, version 4.0, was released almost three years ago. Three years is an awfully long time in the Internet world. During this time, Netscape sat by, helplessly, as their market share plummeted.

It’s a bit smarmy of me to criticize them for waiting so long between releases. They didn’t do it on purpose, now, did they?

Well, yes. They did. They did it by making the single worst strategic mistake that any software company can make:

They decided to rewrite the code from scratch.

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