Over on Quora, a user asks, “Why doesn’t Chrome have an option to put tabs on the bottom?” Chrome developer Evan Martin answers:
Broadly, “why doesn’t Chrome do [x]” can almost always be answered by “because [y] and [z] were considered more important and we don’t have time to do everything.”
We don’t have time to do everything. This is the toughest thing. When you’re making software, the possibilities around what you can build are endless, but the list of things you must build is what matters.
Apple’s product marketing puts it a different way:
There are a thousand “no’s” for every “ yes.”
In order to ship an app, you’ve got to be a ruthless editor. Intellectually I knew that, but launching ThinkUp.com was a special challenge.
With five years of development behind it by almost 100 open source contributors, ThinkUp is made of hundreds of thousands of lines of code and dozens of plugins. Instead of deciding what to build and shelving the rest in the planning stages, we had to cut actual, working code—features that had been discussed, built, tested, and that I’d personally pored over, approved, and deployed.
In other words, we had to kill my darlings.
It wasn’t a short list. ThinkUp.com doesn’t have search, export, invitations, user role management, per-user dashboards, RSS-based crawling, reCAPTCHA, thread embedding, crawl pausing, browser notifications, reply filtering by most frequent words or ordering by geographical distance, a Chrome extension, Twitter search keywords, or Facebook page tracking. ThinkUp.com doesn’t have Google+, Foursquare, YouTube, Instagram, Bitly, or Google Maps support. ThinkUp.com doesn’t have a free trial or monthly pricing.
Heck, for the first few weeks, users weren’t able to change their passwords when they were logged into ThinkUp.com. We cut as far down to the bone as we could.
In Lean parlance, we launched our Minimum Viable Product. Then we listened. The funny thing was, the things our members wanted—like richer email notifications and better stories—didn’t overlap with the features we cut. Other items—like a free trial and monthly pricing—are getting attention in the coming months.
From the start, Anil and I knew that to turn the open source project into a consumer product, ThinkUp had to undergo a massive redesign and simplification, a brutal pruning of every single thing that wasn’t absolutely core to the most useful, simple, and delightful experience.
We’re proud to have shipped on time. Still, it’s not easy to hear users say they like your app but wonder why it doesn’t have something and speculate why. For the most part, the reason is simple—we didn’t have time to do everything.
So, our promise to you is twofold. First, every single thing you do get in ThinkUp represents a thousand others we omitted or delayed after thinking long and hard about it. Second, we’re using the time we do have building ThinkUp to make the insights, add the features, and fix the bugs that matter the very most. We’re not near done—in fact, we’ve only just begun. In the meantime, we’re always listening.
If you haven’t already, join ThinkUp and let us know how we’re doing.