Zawinski’s Law

I was reading Finish your stuff by Martin Sustrik (creator of ZeroMQ) today and stumbled upon Zawinski’s Law from The Jargon File.

“Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.”

Emacs comes to mind (you know what they say, it’s “a great operating system, lacking only a decent editor”).

However, we see that a lot of bloated software being replaced by leaner and minimal products, which might seem to be in contrary to this rule. Lots of people moved from WordPress to much simpler Medium. But Medium, in turn, has become a bloated piece of JavaScript by now, which aligns with Zawinski’s Law.

Quoting the Wikipedia article on the subject:

Eric Raymond comments that while this law goes against the minimalist philosophy of Unix (a set of “small, sharp tools”), it actually addresses the real need of end users to keep together tools for interrelated tasks, even though for a coder implementation of these tools are clearly independent jobs.

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