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Meaning of Zawinski's law

Mansukhdeep Thind
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 27, 2010
Posts: 1157


I read this on the Jamie Zawinski wikipedia page.

Zawinski's law of software envelopment

Zawinski's Law of Software Envelopment (also known as Zawinski's Law) relates the pressure of popularity to the phenomenon of software bloat:

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

I have a few questions regarding this:

a) What is meant by the term "software envelopment" ?

b) What are "software bloat" and "pressure of popularity" ?

c) Finally the law itself- "Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail". What does this sentence mean?

P.S> I understand this is in no way related to Java. But then I could not find any other forum where I could ask this.

~ Mansukh
Matthew Brown

Joined: Apr 06, 2010
Posts: 4542

I'd say this is the most appropriate forum.

Software bloat is where you keep adding features to a piece of software, often beyond the point where they are actually useful. Think about what an application like MS Word can do nowadays compared to what it used to be able to do - yet many of the new features are used by very few people.

"Pressure of popularity" I would take to mean that software bloat often happens because of commercial or similar pressures to keep adding features because your competitors are doing the same, and people think they want lots of features.

So the law is intended to be a humorous expression of that. If you keep adding features to your program, eventually someone says "why don't we make it so you can read your email using it?"
Mansukhdeep Thind
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 27, 2010
Posts: 1157

Hahahaha!! Damn! Reading email Lolz!! Like what the cell phone companies are trying to achieve these days.
I agree. Here's the link:
subject: Meaning of Zawinski's law
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