Jargon Watch: Zawinski’s law

Jamie Zawinski calls it the law of software envelopment to explain the concept of software bloat. Or how all truly useful programes experience pressure to evolve into toolkits and application platforms.

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

Zawinski was talking about software in its traditional form rather than web services, but you can see this also in the way social platforms have evolved from their original function into wider platforms. For instance, Facebook has moved from being a micro-blogging and address book service to authentication across over 500 popular websites and a platform for a plethora of entertainment and productivity applications.

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