Goodbye Basecamp, This Is The End Of A True Love. My Heart Is Broken.

Dear Basecamp,

I am not angry, this is just the end of a love story, and i want to say goodbye.

We once met in Copenhagen at the reboot7 conference back in 2005, and meeting you – among many others – changed my life.

From then on, you have been sort of an idol to me, a real hero. You were so admirable. You got a lot of things right that others didn’t. I was in love. I praised you. I mentioned you in countless presentations, hundreds of screenshots and many talks. You have been a source of inspiration for me, and i want to thank you.

I was proud to know you. But not anymore.

Things move on. Neither you are beautiful anymore, nor you are the coolest girl at the party. Yes, i am a bit disappointed. In case you’re interested in, here is why i leave.

These are slides from the first day we’ve met.

I was very impressed when you said: „Say no by default”. As you can see, i even kept your slides to remember. I know very well the problem of too much features leading to crappy software. Your beauty came from inside, from your virginity. Saying „no” seemed pretty obvious the right thing. Like a boss.

But as it turns out, in the long run, after 6 years, i must say that the result is disappointing. You proved yourself wrong, i think.

You improved in these years, but you didn’t take the next step. Your innovations i am aware of: „due dates for milestones” and recently, the new calendar. For me, you seem to have said „no” too often.

You didn’t integrate the Writeboard into Basecamp.

You still don’t have a real newsfeed.

You don’t allow me to switch off unnecessary tabs to prevent confusion of my poor co-workers.

You didn’t develop task and ticket management workflows like Jira has. There is no tracking of work times.

I could go on.

Others are more beautiful now. For me, Podio is the new Basecamp. I love the idea of building self-defined information items, although it’s true that her (inter)face is still ugly and cannot match with yours. But i don’t care, because she will improve. Even now at this early stage, she is more useful for me than you. Of course this happens all the time, different people love different software, and maybe i have changed.

But what really disappoints me, is that you don’t understand.

Life is change. Everything is on the move. It flows. You cannot step in the same river twice. If you want to keep a relationship alive, you have to change. You have to take risks, the risk of breaking up. And if you take risks, you might fail. But remember – the courage you showed in the first place was one of the reasons i fell in love with you.

But there was a chance to renew our love. It began so promising.

A lot of your other lovers have been waiting long for you to launch a good app. Finally, you came up with Basecamp Mobile. You might have had good reasons not to build a native app and try something different. A lot of people i know, mostly developers, cheered. While i am a big fan of the open web too, i am really grateful for that you tried to prove what is possible.

The result was – well – i call it painful. You have built so many great things in the web browser, how come you don’t see it? Even on the best phones and networks, your overall appearance is annoying – compared to a well done native app. You are way too slow and far not responsive enough. In fact you are so bad, that if someone asks me about what i think about HTML5 apps, i am answering now: check out Basecamp Mobile. How can we expect to do better if they can’t do it?

It was a nice try, you could have easily learned from it.

But instead, you are starting to talk weird. 10 Apps is all people need? Only because someone does not use more than 10 apps, a diversity of thousands of apps is irrelevant? I might use only 10 apps too, but certainly they are not the same 10 than somebody other’s. You are way wrong, and it is well justified to say you are in an insider bubble.

You could have aimed to be baked into the OSes with your applications, just like twitter is now baked into iOS. I was desperately hoping you would succeed. Your UIs would be as snappy and funny as Angry Birds’s, and people would say, why should i use the desktop when i can also do this in the phone?

(I am not saying that everyone should build a native app because i know it is awfully expensive to do. But then you could have said: sorry, i cannot afford to support apps. But do not try to make me believe this is the better strategy.)

With this, you finally lost me. Certainly, you don’t care. But i feel sorry to say: it’s over.


One More Thing

In May 2007, i upgraded my free Basecamp account to the „Personal Plan”, which was $12/month. I payed for 42 months. That’s $504 in total. I managed some, not all, my projects with it. I always was a bit pissed with the storage limits, but i admit that cleaning up a bit solved that issue.

A week ago, i considered reactivating my account for a certain project. And guess what, i was shocked. Now i should pay at least $49 $24? That is more than close to what i pay for my Adobe CS, which is approximately $35 when you write it off over 3 years. I consider Basecamp as ridiculously overpriced. No chance that i will sign up again under these conditions.

[update: i didn’t recognize the tiny line at the bottom, offering the $24 „basic” plan, thanks for that correction.]

[update: There is a discussion thread in the Hacker News related to this post, I responded to comments from Jason Fried an Joel Spolski here]

34 thoughts on “Goodbye Basecamp, This Is The End Of A True Love. My Heart Is Broken.”

  1. I could not agree with you more. Having used Basecamp for years it has been a love hate relationship. Like Google the interface always feels very dated compared to the elegance of Apple. Writeboard integration, and choosing not to make a native app store were the biggest knife for me. 37Signals is an incredible company, ruby on rails, and visionary and love reading their books and blogs which is why each year I given them second chances. Just signed up for Podio after reading this, looks incredible. Maybe 37Signals will surprise us with something other than a simple calendar.

  2. Great post. One correction. The free and cheapest plan are hidden below and they start at free and $24. I think they got rid of the solo plan. Have to agree with you on the overall post… deactivated my account about 12 months ago.

  3. I’m an advocate „Getting Real” and the 37Signals philosophy. Ruby on Rails is fantastic and has been the framework of choice for my projects. However, I must agree that the lack of continual product improvement and integration across apps is disappointing. That doesn’t stop me from still using Campfire extensively, and TaDa list from time to time, but my hope of a complete 37Signals solution is fading. Excited to check out Podio …

  4. I started using it on and off in late ’06. I could never get clients, or even coworkers to use it long enough to make it worthwhile. Once GitHub introduced the first version of their Issues system I let BC go.

  5. Wrike is going to take the cake from here on out.

    Our company used basecamphq for 2 years.

    Use this software when you want a good solution. When you want a great solution use wrike.

    (*same Price*)

  6. yawn, people outgrow software, and you’re surprised?

    if basecamp grows to account for your idiot employees who can’t ignore tabs they dont need, well, move on and leave room in 37signals database for a new company that needs what they’ve got

    personally i’m glad they dont have a bunch of the pointless bloat you described here

    and, really, we’re going to haggle over 12 vs 50 bucks a month? that’s just sad

  7. Don’t be sad, 37s EXPECTS you to leave. Jason said that in a post a few years back. As I recall, his theory is that as you leave out the backdoor, new users will come on-board for the same reasons you did. So they must keep the product the same (with minimal features). 

    If they complicated the product with the features you want, they will miss out on the newbies that want simplicity first. 37s has no desire to grow with you because they want to own the „simple” market. They have no desire to compete with more feature-laden products, and wish you well as you grow out of Basecamp.

    That’s what I remember. I wish I could find the link to that darn post. Sorry.

  8. Well said @Stacy. Horribly drawn out metaphor aside this article fails to recognise, and pardon me for joining in on the metaphor, it’s not you – it’s me.

  9. Hi,

    I am a little torn about this. I am one of the people behind Apollo, . We develop something that covers both project management and CRM. So we do the whole cases&deals, timers, powerful calendar, etc.

    Now… as of features. I have been reading Apollo’s mailbox since the very beginning. When you develop web software, I can guarantee that you get a _lot_ of requests. I mean, a _lot_. Some of the requests make 100% complete sense, but only for a limited number of users. The same request implies an extra setting, or an extra menu within Apollo.

    We don’t say „no” by default. We listen to everybody. Then, we try to group feature requests in batches, and change them so that more than „a few” people will benefit from them.

    One example is „project category”. It started with a huge customer requesting them, and they evolved into something that a lot of users now use.

    This approach works – it really does. But it takes about 5x the amount of work. And it gets tricky at times. There is more code to maintain. More options to keep. More emails to read and _actually_ understand, discuss, etc.

    Our approach reflects our personalities. It’s a sacrifice we are willing to make, because we love the way we work.

    Who am I to say that „our” approach is better? Maybe theirs makes a lot more sense: they have a lot of new customers who will always come in through the frond door.

    But well, each to their own. Our approach works for us, so theirs must work for them!


  10. I have to say I completely agree and was thinking of writing a similar post. I have been using Basecamp for 4+ years, but their lack of innovation really does not justify the cost. As you said, Adobe Photoshop is in the same price range and infinitely more powerful.

  11. Basecamp design products how more SaaS should. Lowest common denominator featureset for their target audience’s goals. 

    This is a great article for Podio, but comparing them to BC is a battle lost. You can’t win on the size of your featurelist. And usability – while not glamorous – is where Basecamp continue to win this game.

    I’d argue Apollo HQ is closer in terms of BC feature set. But there’s too many trying to imitate rather than innovate in this space.

  12. @Stacy
    here is the post you are probably referring to:

  13. There are quite a few Basecamp competitors, all have their pros and cons. 

    We currently use Central Desktop, but have tried and used others like Sharepoint, Salesforce, Yammer, etc…

  14. Logically, you either was an idiot in the past when you believed in 37signals mantra, or you became an idiot now when you suddenly forgot what this mantra is all about.
    Somehow you never said that 37signals was (and hence, your were) wrong about their formula, you somehow try to say something different – that they were right back then when you believed in them and became wrong when you stopped doing this. 

    37signals did not changed – you did. Don’t blame them for your own changes of mind.

    Except for iPhone story. If this app really sucks, then Bascamp violated their own mantra – and I am with you. 

    But based on your hysteria in other places (like about price – 37signals never promised to you that they would be cheapest) – I have reasonal doubts in your ability to see things unbiased. 

    Frankly, I think you just want a little more fame than you are deserve. 

    Or, you just on Podio payroll.

  15. Never used it, but based on all comments above: Basecamp is a half-product, for half-companies. It takes some months (sometimes years) to really become a full-company, that’s when you move out of Basecamp. Yet, using a full-product for a half-company would only bloat your day-to-day operations, 37Signals realized that and made a nice half-product for that market, which I think is a great idea.

    37signals should have also built a full-blown product alongside Basecamp to support its beloved users. Someone big will eventually have a half-product, with a full product ready for users to migrate to. 

    SAP did just that, results: kicked TATA out of ERP business sent Oracle on a shopping spree – this will not happen to 37signals. They will not build such full-product, Basecamp is not the only product they have, and they know exactly how to do targeted marketing, and you cannot beat them in their own game.

    About all this bubble talk, people are just naive:

    I’m Co-founder & CIO of a Bank/credit-card company, I know a bit about bubbles. We are not even close to one. People don’t understand why you would put 40 millions on an app like Color. It’s exactly the same reason Hollywood looses an awful lot of money on 80% of it’s movies. For each lost 40 million, they net-profited at least 10 on a good movie. This is what I do for a living. I give 1000 people money, I loose money in 98% of them, the other 2% pays my loses and gives me a nice profit.

    Bubbles only happen throughout the whole market***. Eventual market adjustments (that will occur to linkedin, pandora, facebook) are not bubble bursts. Only real money is lost, not futures. If people start exchanging debt papers for linkedin/facebook papers… bubble!

    *** Most companies that are „in the bubble” don’t even have papers in the market!!!! bubbles only happen in open markets.

  16. I think this is one of the better, most well written blog posts I’ve read in a while. I was, and still is, underwhelmed by „new” Basecamp. It’s all the same, just less.

    You have some really valid points about directions they could take and features they could implement. Features that would not distract, but rather improve workflow and simplicity.

    37s lost their mind somehow.

  17. I find new version of basecamp rather hard to navigate and use as compared with their last version.I currently use ProofHub. As compare to basecamp, proofhub is quite simple, user friendly and the most important thing is that it provides so many advanced and unique features like instant chat, hidden mode features, file proofing, etc.

  18. Are you still using podio? It looks pretty cool, but it looks very BIG… lots there. I use basecamp with integration and it works well for us. We have about 20 contractors working for us on this setup and it’s pretty slick. I agree with you regarding the cost and storage constraints of basecamp. But I really like the way we can follow tasks and understand what each worker is currently doing.

  19. Definitely some solid comments here. I was a very frequent user of Basecamp as well, both with start-up and Fortune 50 organizations. Over time, we often experienced the same challenges noted here. I am excited to say that I started using a new tool back in September (2012) and was so thrilled with it that I joined the team. The social collaboration space is exciting, challenging and un-chartered at this stage — but I’m looking forward to seeing where it all leads and helping to deliver what’s best for the people that need these solutions – whether they’re busy parents managing their lives, professionals keeping business on track or volunteers looking to make a real difference. If anyone checks out Kona, please let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

  20. Just stumbled upon this article today. We too face a lot of feature requests for – we don’t promise anything and nor do we say „we will never do it”. I think the key is to connect with your users and actually learn why they would need something that they are asking for.

  21. I agree with you. I now switched to ProofHub which is the best alternative to Basecamp. It comes with lots of features like time tracking, proofing, inbuilt chat etc. Avail free services also.

  22. We’ve utilized basecamp for a long time and went looking for an undertaking administration result that might take into account more responsibility permitting administration to better figure out what has been appointed, finished and additionally survey the workload by office and people. We did a careful examination, and found that furnished us with an almost finish bundle. The following are the notes that I arranged dependent upon our inward list of things to get of things that were important as a capacity of our new result.

  23. Apparently, I decided to try Podio as there were many fans in here of that but my first initial 20 minutes review is bad as I am not able to add any members (although it says free for first five members). I think good or not, I have to use Basecamp.

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