The choice between restarting and reviving the old software – TechCrunch

The choice between restarting and reviving the old software – TechCrunch

The choice between restarting and reviving the old software – TechCrunch

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In October 2022, after completing the acquisition of Twitter, Elon Musk asked his team to work on bringing Vine back to market. The team is probably wondering now whether they should try to revive the old codebase or start from scratch.

Are the problems that Vine faces even technical in nature, or does it have to do with the core business model?

I have no real knowledge of the Vine tech stack, but these questions (as we’ll see) have been a constant in the industry for over 20 years. This article uses my own experience working on high throughput B2B and B2C stacks over a similar timeframe to Vine, and I make some assumptions.

Whether I’m right or not, the larger considerations will apply to anyone facing such a decision right now.

The problem with Vine

The problem Vine faces has nothing to do with its technology. It’s likely that the Twitter team could define and ship a perfectly designed app and not even reduce TikTok’s market share.

The conversation they should be having is more about business than technology. When Vine launched in 2012, TikTok was still five years away, and Vine never figured out how to successfully monetize its platform in a way that cared for top creators and influencers. It can be ambitious to think that you can go from zero to a world-class social media site in a matter of months.

Reviving parts of a codebase is like changing an airplane engine mid-flight.

Whether the team chooses to restart or relaunch Vine, they must answer questions about the future of a business in the world that the app abandoned in 2016.

For Vine, this is a business decision, but it is treated as a technical decision. By choosing to start from scratch, you let software developers decide your business strategy, and this approach risks losing market.

Keeping that in mind, let’s simplify things a bit: businesses are faced with such questions quite frequently, so what are the non-business considerations that should be taken into account?

Restart or reboot?

Suppose Musk and his team have solved the company’s problems, or at least are comfortable enough with their ideas to give you the choice: relaunch or restart? How do you do it?

I am indebted to Joel Spolsky for his April 2000 article on the subject. A lot has changed since this blog was written: the world was pre-agile, pre-cloud and pre-continuous integration. The vine itself is probably also showing its age. It was launched in 2012, which means it probably used REST APIs, which means it was pre-container, pre-gRPC and pre-Kafka. If they did data streaming, it was probably built in-house. Some old Vine engineers have already said that it needs to be rewritten.

But Spolsky’s points remain as salient today as when Bill Clinton was president:

  • The market won’t stand still and wait for you to get it right.
  • It’s bold to think that you’ll do everything perfectly (or even better) this time around.


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