Why Does Software Spoil?

Some new candidates for laws :slight_smile:

The time an application needs to load doubles every version.

The size of an application’s minimal install doubles every version.

The number of unused features in a product doubles every version.

The number of clones of a product doubles every version.

not all software die with new features. Feature creep seem a synonym for bloat, but I’ve met two full-featured softwares that run slimmer, often better than other counterparts.

a) Opera. While I love firefox and its extensions, Opera still has tons of good features, and runs much smoother. Only problem are the pages that don’t load correctly (whose fault is it though?).

b) MediaMonkey. So far, it’s beat iTunes on (almost) every front, speed and control most importantly. Speed is essential to my 120Go mp3 collection, and control, it’s more a matter of taste, but it doesn’t do things without me asking the program to do them. It could use some help on cleaner, simpler menus… I guess the freedom from a big computer company behind it has left off the grip of propriatery corruption.

Also good: notepad++ (any structured edition), vim (console edition), and command line tools (the unix/linux ones… never got a hold of those on windows cause the console access has been terribly neglected by microsoft.)

Want a lightweight MP3 player that works just fine?

1by1 is a 65K executable


WinAmp is a weird one. I liked the simplistic nature of the early versions but I use about 80% of the features now in 5.5. I use it exclusively to manage my iPod (iTunes was just utter tripe), I rip and burn CD collections, I listen to radio stations and I have a mass of playlists etc, all of which winamp can handle while only using about 12K in memory.

I think, as others may have said, a company should over time release new versions but they should always keep the old ones around so those who wish to stay with what they’ve got can.

Still using Winamp 2.91 , PaintShopPro 5, etc …because they do what I want and load fast

Tried PSP 10 and after it finally loaded found it unusable! What have they done to it?
(Paint.NET looks promising but the .NET puts me off, sledgehammer/nut springs to mind, shades of the old, look how small this VB program is, just install VBRunDLL to make it work… and)

I use WinAmp 2.91 to play mp3 files and CD’s and nothing else…
I use a dedicated ripper/burner to rip/burn
I use a dedicated format converter to convert

It seems to be the do one thing well applies here, Emacs is a special case, it was the first attempt to build a system that did everything well… It succeeded in doing everything the same, so at least it has a consistent interface

7-zip is too minimalist to the point of being unusable, unless you use another file manager (like total commander or winrar) to view archives. The shell extension’s great though.

But you see - that’s the point (at least for me, and I believe that’s what Jeff is talking about): 7-zip is compressor/decompressor, not a file manager, and it is focused on doing this one thing, and it does it very well. I don’t use WinRar, and I do use Total Commander to peek into archives, but most of the time I use 7-zips submenu under RMB. And that’s enough, I rarely even see it’s main window for that matter, and that is main reason i favour it over all other (free or commercial) compressing software

I’ll go along with FWHagen and steffenj and offer UltraEdit as a good example of a program that has certainly grown over time in terms of features, but the speed and size have stayed under control.

They’ve branched out with some other separate products like (suite, sentry, compare), but at the core the editor itself is still very solid.

Skype certainly seems to be heading down this path IMHO!

What a shame. Mind you, voip software is dime a dozen, very low barriers to entry. Seems a bit naive of Skype to think they can move beyond the product and into the ‘brand’ arena.

My favourite applications don’t change much at all, they all reached a point where they had all the features they needed.

  • GNU screen
  • OpenSSH
  • GNU nano
  • Xterm(bash is a bit of a mess, but I don’t really mind)
  • mutt
  • mplayer

Firefox is bloated as hell, as netscape did spoil alot during the browser wars. At some point I hope to have a free web browser that isn’t bloated, but that’s currently difficult to come by.

Usually free software (GUN GPLed) are quite small, fast and just work.


I have always been disappointed with Foxit Reader. The rendering quality is terrible. SumatraPDF is a step in the right direction but needs more work to become fully usable. Thus, I ended up with Adobe Reader again, but cut down to remove as much bloat as possible.

Nero is the same. The core Burning ROM part is actually not bad and hasn’t changed much since V6. You can opt not to install all the other crap, although CD-DVD Speed is a useful tool and Recode is one of the best quality H.264 encoders available.

I too am a WinAMP 5.5 user. It’s finally getting reasonable Unicode support, and I use the Media Library a lot. With classic skins it still starts very fast and uses little memory, but supports audiophile stuff like kernel streaming/ASIO and ReplayGain.

I generally prefer small apps that do a single thing well. www.tinyapps.org has a large (but sadly rarely updated) collection. There is a blog too.

In the end, it seems like modularity is the key. You can have your program read email, but as long as it’s optional and doesn’t directly add bloat to your program that’s probably okay.

I agree - Firefox is getting very sluggish/bloated. Although I have reccently found part of this is due to the horrendous flash player implementation. I reccently installed the Flashblock extension which prevents the massive CPU hit you get from viewing pages full of flash adverts.

After reading this article, i asked my colleague what software comes to his mind that has become bloated over the years. His immediate response was: “Windows?” :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m still using or prefer to use when i have the choice:

  • Paint Shop Pro 6
  • ACDSee 3.1
  • MS Outlook '97 / 2000
  • Via 4in1 v4.43 (pre-Hyperion, on those machines that need it)
  • MS Media Player 6

My longest lasting Appz that didn’t go “feature-frenzy”:

  • Buzof (Basta Computing)

I don’t use anymore (and replaced it with):

  • Winamp foobar2000
  • Media Player BSPlayer, VLC
  • NERO Suite i only install Burning ROM, i burn ROM images using ImgBurn
  • WinOnCD
  • Internet Explorer Opera, and Firefox as “backup”
  • Winzip Winrar, 7-Zip, Directory Opus ZIP handler (in this order)
  • any McAfee and Norton Internet Security / Antivirus Suites Bitdefender
  • EDonkey/EMule thank god for Torrents Usenet!

I do (mostly) enjoy upgrading:

  • UltraEdit
  • OO Defrag (showing first signs of bloat since v10)
  • Directory Opus
  • video drivers :slight_smile:
  • DirectX (never had any problems with upgrading DX)
  • MS Visual Studio

Generally, i am VERY skeptical about any software that has “Suite” in its name and/or tries to cover multiple things at once (eg. Antivirus + Firewall + Spam, Picture Viewer + Image Editor + Animation or Video Editing, CD/DVD Burning + Media Editing, Video Playing Archiving Internet Browsing/Streaming).

I also feel that the “featurism” most significantly affects software for image, audio and video viewing and editing as well as typical “security” suites. Not to forget about CD/DVD Burning though.

I can’t complain about IM’s though because i only use MS Office Communicator 2005 which feels slick and lean to me. But just by looking at today’s versions of XFire, ICQ or AIM on other user’s computers i feel disgusted even though I’ve never used them.

Is software doomed to spoil over time?

No; commercial software appears doomed to spoil though. Somehow software companies go through a metamorphosis, similar to your wolly moth example. They started with nothing, and wrote new software. They wrote software because they felt an itch, or a market opening, or whatever. And they found out they could make good money doing it.

At some point, they discovered selling to existing customers was a far less scary proposition than finding new customers to sell software for that doesn’t exist. The once great entrepreneurial spirit of the company, writing new programs, has diminished in the face of finding a few reasons to sell your customers something they basically already own. If a customer is satisfied with version 5 already well into the spoilage, fixing the spoilage for a fee sounds crappy. Call it what you will, but I call it removing features for a fee. But every major release also comes with an implicit bug fixing onslaught that nobody can test until they’ve already paid or pirated. Ever seen a bullet point for “Fixed ticket #2452?” Only in changelogs that may or may not be published.

The trouble is, why would a company with software give up such a revenue stream? Releasing a new major version is almost guaranteed money, no matter how bad Vista is. Or whatever you happen to be working on. Fixing spoilage is about finding ways for a company to transition software from a state of development to a state of stable management. If I had the answer, I’d have a million dollars.

I can’t name a single closed source app I used five years ago I still use today. The situation isn’t much better on Linux. GNOME’s a bit like Windows; its hard whether I call it spoiled or just unfinished. But there’s a few notables: Firefox has been around since 2002. It’s basically the same thing from a usability standpoint. Firefox’s tools for fighting bloat grew directly from a pair of developer’s desire to remove what they saw as bloat in Mozilla’s Netscape browser.

In a sense, every product competes with itself, but with open source you can’t deliberately deny bug and security fixes to old versions. Open source isn’t immune to bloat, it just has a better pressure release valve.

After some years, VirtualDUB (www.virtualdub.org) still remains a shiny little gem. Probably, because it’s not commercial… I guess the difference is all in the marketing.

But, as pointed out, the difference between junk and cool feature is often a matter of perspective:
@dbr said: (MSN) annoying animated emoticons, completely unnecessary "Personal Message’ field that people just fill up with even more junk

…if everybody uses (and creates) animated emoticons and fills in the Personal Message, then those two are definetly cool features :slight_smile:

Another thing to keep in mind: software bloated by unnecessary junk features, and software bloated by performance, are not the same thing. Opera introduced a LOT of features, even unnecessary but cool ones, such as the Commodore64 CSS Style, but the application is still lightning fast and the installer is still under 5mb.

It’s not just software that is spoiling…

Turn on the TV, or go shopping and you see exactly the same thing:

Companies trying to sell you crap you dont need. For example how many more razors can they add to disposable razors, until people say “Ok, that’s enough. These guys are taking the piss” [duh].

Does this problem originate with the “Growth fetish” we have in capitalist society?

Growth at all costs (even your sanity or product).

I think so.

Not to mention grep. I mean c’mon, grep 2.0 125Kb TARred. greap 2.5 668Kb TARred!!!11 Where the heck is all that bloat coming from? What, now it supports --label and --only WHO CARES. “Users want those new features.”. Tell that to my floppy disk man.

It’s ludicrous to see what some programmers will try to get away with if you let them.

Opera browser hasn’t spoiled over the years. In fact it got better.

I, too, think a good plugin system is the only way (today) to avoid bloating like this.

@Michael G.R.
Anybody has some good alternatives to ACDsee?


About device-driver software:

Logitech Mouse Driver (Setpoint 4) - overkill when it comes to applying settings on a per-application basis. I know it’s to work around how programs handle mouse input but it’s just not something I’m willing to put up with. I’d rather have an OK setup for all programs than being able to setup the perfect mouse feel for specific applications.

I bet other device-driver software has similar overkill features or signs of bloat. Think about your scanner or printer software with beautiful names like “Eazy Printing”, i guess.