The original Basecamp launched way back in 2004 and it has since grown to become one of the most popular online collaboration tools in the world. It’s consistently ranked as one of the best ways for teams to share documents and manage their projects. That said, it’s been nearly a decade, so surely the platform is due for a significant update.
And so, developers 37signals began work on the official successor last year. What was referred to internally as BCX is being prepared for public use as Basecamp Next. Interestingly, this is actually the third major revision of the project management utility, as the second version replaced the first rather quietly.
Like most other types of software, Basecamp has been continually getting upgrades and updates over its lifetime. Many of these have been in the form of incremental improvements, meant to provide the user with a better, faster, and more intuitive experience.
For example, some recent updates include the addition of automatic saving and recovery functions. With the first, the text you enter in message fields is automatically saved, just in case you accidentally close the window or lose your Internet connection. With the second, you can restore deleted items, not unlike the “recycle bin” on your desktop PC.
But these are small updates. Basecamp Next is going to be a near complete overhaul with 37signals rewriting the base code from the ground up. Even so, the existing Basecamp API will continue to work, meaning that any current applications shouldn’t “break” with the update.
Getting Up to Speed
It doesn’t matter if you have many great features and a gorgeous user interface if the service is slow as molasses. That’s why one of the priorities for the development team was to improve the speed of Basecamp Next, reducing requests down to under 100ms and as low as under 20ms.
The increase in speed is largely due to two main factors. First, Basecamp Next is going to use Stacker, reducing “HTTP requests on a per-page basis to a minimum by keeping the layout the same between requests.” After the initial loading, each subsequent request “will only trigger a single HTTP request to get the HTML that changed.”
Second, 37signals is taking caching to a whole new level. This way, items don’t have to be redownloaded very often, only fetching what is new. The caches can be shared between pages and between people, as can be seen in the screenshot above. The template item is being drawn from the same cache, even though it’s being shown on three different pages.
The original blog post goes in much further detail, including significant technical explanations. The long and the short of it is that Basecamp Next should be very, very fast.
The Goodbye and Hello Lists
While things certainly change over the course of a development cycle, the team at 37signals put together a couple of initial lists regarding what they wanted to abandon for Basecamp Next and what they wanted to introduce. The items on the “goodbye” list don’t necessarily mean that they’re being removed altogether, as they could just mean that they are going to be significantly altered.
On the “goodbye” list, we see such items as client/firm split, tabs, weird permissions, private items, IE7, file versioning, time tracking, Campfire integration, writeboards, and FTP hosting. Items on the “hello” list include groups, people pages, daily progress, email-only access, simple invites, whole new UI, live collaboration, quick jump, drag & drop sharing, and stickies.
When Will It Launch?
The exact launch date has not yet been set, but 37signals is indicating that Basecamp Next will be released in the next week or so. In the meantime, you can get on the VIP list to receive an early notification of when it will be available, including a beta preview ahead of the public launch.