Service sunsets aren’t the least bit pretty

Software makers are obsessed with new. And of course we are, that’s our job: making more, newer, better! But as a lot, we’d be well-served to remember this affliction is generally not shared by our users and customers.

Sure, some people love upgrading to the latest version the minute it lands. It’s also a lot easier when it’s a personal device, like an iPhone, where the focus isn’t purely productivity.

But remember all those companies holding on to IE6 for their dear life? That’s the other side of ‘upgrading fun’. Disrupting workflow, processes, and institutional knowledge because the damn fax machine won’t send the important contract until the firmware is upgraded. What possible utility could a firmware upgrade to the fax machine provide that’s worth keeping a document from sending?

It’s ok not to LOVE, LOVE all software

It’s so easy to get self-righteous about IE6 laggards and the fax machine that cries for a firmware upgrade, but they’re two sides of the same coin.

For some of our customers, Basecamp is an appliance. It does the job, and it does it well, but they don’t have to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT to be happy customers. I’m at peace with that.

Clearly the person who came up with “sunset” as a euphemism for kicking people off their service was not at peace. Whether the reason was a shiny new version or simply losing interest in maintaining legacy, “sunset” encapsulates all the misconceptions software makers have about why their users upgrade.

It’s not beautiful to lose access to your data. And no, that gobbledegook XML or JSON export doesn’t help anything. It’s not beautiful to have a trusted tool or service ripped from your hands because the maker found it an inconvenience to keep it around. It’s nasty, it’s annoying, and apologizing for ANY INCONVENIENCE THIS MIGHT CAUSE is just a further slap in the face.

No more sunsets at Basecamp, ever

So Basecamp 3 is not going to sunset anything. Not the current version of Basecamp, not the classic, original version of Basecamp. Either of those work well for you? Awesome! Please keep using them until the end of the internet! We’ll make sure they’re fast, secure, and always available.

But, but, but isn’t that expensive? Isn’t that hard? What about security? What about legacy code bases? Yes, what about it? Taking care of customers — even if they’re not interested in upgrading on our schedule — is what we do here. Cost of business, as they say.

At launch, Basecamp 3 is not going to have all the same features as previous versions, so some existing customers may well just want to continue with whatever version they’re on. That’s great! All the new, exciting features will still be there when (or if) they choose to upgrade.

For those existing customers who do want to upgrade, we’re going to roll out the red carpet: Big discount on a new trial, and we’ll store your old Basecamp data in the existing versions for free, forever, as long as you’re a paying customer of the latest.

It’s really not rocket science. People like change on their own schedule, they detest it when forced according to someone else’s. That’s just human nature, and it’s rarely good business to fight it.


Check out what we’re up to at Basecamp.com.

Basecamp running on a laptop

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