Morfternight #64: Product Longevity

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📷 Photo of the week

Fanelli – More Photos

👋 Dinner at Fanelli’s

Hi! I landed back in Vienna this morning after spending a few days in New York.

I visited that city for the first time precisely 25 years ago, and I have since been there many times for business, vacations, or to see friends. I was lucky enough, during my first visit, to be with a friend who knew the city already and brought me to Fanelli’s for lunch.

A strange bond was established then with that establishment.

It was already 150 years old when I first visited it. Although not exceptionally rare in NYC, it remains old for such a young country. Maybe it’s the food, definitely on the comforting side of the spectrum, or the drinks (they make a mean Bloody Mary).

The fact remains that I got into the habit of visiting each time I go to New York, regardless of whether I am alone or with someone. Last Friday night wasn’t an exception: I couldn’t leave my laptop until around 10 pm, I was hungry, Fanelli’s was on my way back to the hotel, and I was lucky enough to snag a small table just as it became available.

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Sitting there with a Brooklyn lager and some mozzarella sticks, I noticed something: over the last 25 years, the composition of the crowd around me seemed unchanged.

I was surrounded by people of all genders and ages, from 20-somethings to retirees.

Of course, over a quarter of a century, we have all aged individually (heck, some of them weren’t even born the first time I went there), but collectively we looked the same.

It’s fascinating to see a business that has been able to adapt to societal changes while keeping the recipe that made its success very stable.

When I first started going there, it was still possible to smoke inside; since the pandemic, they added an outdoor seating area like many NYC restaurants. Yet, the menu, the decoration, the tables, chairs, and all the accessories are unchanged, and more importantly, the atmosphere that, I think, makes it a success has remained untouched. It’s still the spot where it’s easy to meet people because you can’t really separate the people you came with from the rest of the crowd and because a seat at the bar will almost certainly guarantee a conversation.

Product longevity

I went to NYC to attend the State of the Word, the yearly keynote that my boss, Matt Mullenweg, gives for the WordPress community to review the year that ends and describe the path forward.

One of this edition’s highlights was that WordPress turns 20 next May.

WordPress is not alone.

After the bubble burst in 2000, the second generation of internet ventures paid a bit more attention to sustainability, with the result that many of the services and software we use today are about 20 years old.

Many, of course, have since disappeared.

It would be futile to try and simplify the reasons some lasted while others didn’t; reality is complex, and the role of randomness is far from negligible after all.

But, when I look at the tools and services still successful around age 20 and over, I notice a similar pattern to Fanelli’s.

Keep what has made you successful unchanged as much as possible, but don’t resist change in those areas where the world has moved on.

It’s easy to fall to either side of this fine line, either by refusing any evolution and becoming obsolete or by constantly changing and adding to a product by fear of being forgotten.

The WordPress case

WordPress, for instance, started as a blogging tool and has evolved into a content management system, then a tool to build websites, an e-commerce tool, and is on its way to becoming the operating system for the web with more than 1/3 of the web running it.

At the same time, it has remained a great blogging tool and has kept backward compatibility across two decades, offering unheard stability to its users since 2003.

🗺️ Three places to visit today

If natural and artificial intelligence picks your curiosity, here are three articles for you.

  1. The Brain Uses Calculus to Control Fast Movements: I wouldn’t have guessed that mice can integrate a function or calculate its derivative, but here we are.
  2. Stable Diffusion v2.1 and DreamStudio Updates: read about the latest Stable Diffusion update and try it in DreamStudio.
  3. To keep our cool while we chat with ChatGPT, I suggest reading how ChatGPT has mastered the confidence trick, and that’s a terrible look for AI. The AI doesn’t know when it’s wrong, which leads it to be as confident in either case.

📽️ State of the Word 2022

I mentioned the State of the Word in my introduction, and if you are interested, you can watch it here.

Last but not least, as I promised last week, here are five more invitations for Arc.

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