Zawinski's Law

I hadn’t heard of Zawinski’s Law until recently:

“Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.” Coined by Jamie Zawinski (who called it the “Law of Software Envelopment”) to express his belief that all truly useful programs experience pressure to evolve into toolkits and application platforms (the mailer thing, he says, is just a side effect of that). It is commonly cited, though with widely varying degrees of accuracy.

The thing that strikes me is how applicable it is to my line of work, and the apps I use.

Here’s a quick list of apps I build with, and notes:

  • WordPress - can read, process and send mail
  • Discourse - of course
  • Rocket.Chat - read/process/send
  • GitLab - yep
  • Prosody - jabber, so… yeah?
  • own/nextCloud - has a mail client

And then there is Basecamp, of which the major feature is that it can be used nearly completely from email. Zawinski was on to something there.

1 Like