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Don't remove features from products
By Dave Winer on Tuesday, November 01, 2011 at 6:03 PM.

A software lesson I learned in 1984. #

First a bit of chronology. #

1. In 1983 my company shipped ThinkTank for the Apple II. #

2. Then we ported that codebase to produce ThinkTank for the IBM PC, shipped it early in 1984. #

3. Later that year we released our first Mac product. It was called ThinkTank 128. It was a completely new codebase, based on a new simpler data structure. I hoped to get a fresh start, with a completely memory-based product. It would be fast, and eventually support more features because the new foundation was cleaner and simpler. However this had the unfortunate side-effect that it appeared to users as if we had removed features from the product. Because ThinkTank 128, which was only available on the Mac, came after #1 and #2, it was called ThinkTank and it had less features than the previous releases.  #

I didn't expect there to be any overlap in users. I don't know why, but that was a big mistake. Many of the people who bought our Mac product in the first few months were people who had already bought our Apple II and IBM PC products.  #

And they were pissed. They paid the same amount of money, later, and got less.  #

And then the product just died. Sales disappeared, until we could get out a version of the product that had most of the features of the other two, and added some new twists. Even then the product didn't get on a good footing until a year after that, when we came out with a product that did a lot more than any of our previous products. But I learned a lesson I would never forget. Even when you aren't actually taking features out of a product, you can't appear to the users to be doing that. They will make you pay for it.  #

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