Basecamp rewrite alienates existing users

So, Basecamp, a program I have something of a love / frustrated relationship with anyway, has been rewritten.  My expectation was that it would be an update, taking all of the features I love and making them more usable in today’s world.

Unfortunately, what they did was create a very pretty, and nearly unusable product.  They have taken the “less is more” idea WAY to far, eliminating the ability to forward email into a project, eliminating templates, milestones, time tracking, folders, private tags, and more.  What’s worse is the occasionally cavalier attitude on the forums where they generally point out that we probably didn’t use any of that stuff anyhow, but if we really miss it, we can just use the “old” version or that they are “considering” things (no roadmap or timelines there, thank you very much).  The real shame there is that the few things they did do in the new version they did really, really well (I love the changes to the calendar, for instance), but it’s not enough to make up for the losses.

Don’t get me wrong!  I’ve been a big, big fan of the 37signals approach – even when I strongly disagree with it.  Shaking things up is a good thing.  But this time it feels like they shook a little too hard.  I feel like an alpha tester when using their new product.  It’s not just limited, it feels downright incomplete.  So much so that I deleted all the projects I moved into the new system and went completely back to the old system.  Unfortunately, much of my use of the old system was based on the hope that there would be iterations that would make my problems with the system go away over time.  Now that it’s clear that that won’t happen (they make it clear efforts will be on the new system), I have some troubling decisions to make.  As it stands, I have more project management tools in Outlook than in the new Basecamp (and you know how much I hate Outlook).

I know that 37signals likes the idea of a customer outgrowing them.  I’m not sure they really meant to actively alienate their existing customer base. The 37signals team is on the forums, and they sometimes seem genuinely interested in discussing how or why features are being missed.   The question is whether I (and many others) will be compelled to move to another product because of the current limitations, or if the 37signals team will aggressively develop the most requested features to show that they are serious about keeping their most passionate customers.   Time will tell.