Please note: This site's design is only visible in a graphical browser that supports Web standards, but its content is accessible to any browser or Internet device. To see this site as it was designed please upgrade to a Web standards compliant browser.
Signal vs. Noise

Our book:
Defensive Design for the Web: How To Improve Error Messages, Help, Forms, and Other Crisis Points
Available Now ($16.99)

Most Popular (last 15 days)
Looking for old posts?
37signals Mailing List

Subscribe to our free newsletter and receive updates on 37signals' latest projects, research, announcements, and more (about one email per month).

37signals Services
XML version (full posts)
Get Firefox!

Basecamp Launches

05 Feb 2004 by Jason Fried

Basecamp has launched!. Check out the site for a tour of the app w/ screenshots, example uses, and training info (including free Chicago workshops). And it’s free for 1 project plus a 30 day free trial for paying plans.

Thanks for all your wonderful and useful feedback over the past few weeks on the feature previews. We’ve made some changes based on your comments, and plan on tweaking current functionality and adding lots of new features based on customer feedback. We have a lot planned (1.1, 1.2, and 1.3 are already in the works), but our ears are open. Wide open.

A few quick and random thoughts…

Basecamp strives to provide the tools for a more human form of project management. With Basecamp it’s not about tons of stats, charts, numbers, and graphs — it’s about two-way communication, conversation, simple scheduling, and to-do lists so you don’t forget the little things (and projects are often comprised of thousands of these little things).

Basecamp is the perfect project management tool for freelancers or small shops that don’t have dedicated project managers. Although plenty of shops with dedicated project managers have already signed up and are using it right now.

Basecamp is yours. There’s no mention of 37signals or even “Basecamp” on your own project site. Plus, you can customize the colors and upload your logo to make it as consistent as possbile with your own brand. We’ve even made sure that all emails that your clients receive from the system (new post notifications, for example) come from your email address, not ours.

You may think your collection of random emails, napkin scribbles, IM chat transcripts, post-it notes, and handwritten notes are organized but what do your clients think? When you work with a client, do they feel like you are organized? Do you they feel like they are important? They’re paying the money, but do they feel like they are in the loop? Basecamp helps make them part of the process.

Project management often suffers when clients aren’t involved. Basecamp brings them into the fold by allowing them to post and comment. It gives them a greater sense of ownership and ends up producing a better end product.

“Projects” just aren’t web development projects. They are group projects (for school, for example), home improvement projects, family projects, “looking for a new job” projects, “keeping track of what the competition is doing” projects, and more. Basecamp can be used by all sorts of people for all sorts of projects.

Basecamp can be a great sales tool. Set up a project site for a client and include the URL and log-in information with your proposal. Show them you’re already on the ball — even before you get the project.

Jim Coudal said this about Basecamp’s client retention abilities: “Not only does Basecamp improve client communications it also improves client loyalty. Once clients start using the tool they’ll never want to go back to the old way of doing business. Your client’s experience becomes completely proprietary. This leap forward in project tracking becomes a large part of their relationship with your firm and they’ll have to think long and hard about giving that up if they decide to switch creative resources.”

We worked hard to make Basecamp affordable. The Basic plan, which allows you to manage up to 10 active projects at a time, only costs about 65 cents a day. 65 cents a day to keep you organized and your clients in the loop. And the Premium plan, which allows you to manage unlimited projects, is under $2/day.

Basecamp isn’t revolutionary. There’s nothing brand new about blog-like posts, to-do lists, and milestones. But, it’s the integration of the three ways you think about a project (what to say, what needs to be done, and keeping track of the little frustrating things that often get lost in the shuffle), that makes Basecamp special. Plus, it’s very fast and streamlined. No bloat. Lean code. CSS/XHTML. Intuitive and useful. The overall experience is the appeal.

Basecamp incorporates new technology when it’s useful, not just to flaunt it. RSS feeds let you stay on top of your projects without having to stay logged into Basecamp (we have a lot more planned for the RSS integration angle). Auto-updating Apple iCal integration allows you to subscibe to your milestones/schedules and to-do lists. You can even “complete” milestones or check off to-do list items from within iCal. And, since iCal can sync with Palms, and there are RSS newsreaders for mobile devices, you can take a lot of your Basecamp with you.

So, that’s it for now. We’ll be posting here and at Everything Basecamp often. Stay tuned for new feature announcements, updates, and observations.

And, of course, thanks for everything and good luck on your projects (hopefully managed with Basecamp ;)

30 comments so far (Post a Comment)

05 Feb 2004 | chris rhee said...

Just wanted to post and say: Really nice job, guys.

(By the way, in your post, the link to Everything Basecamp links to instead of

05 Feb 2004 | Michael Spina said...

Congratulations on the launch! The site looks great and I look forward to using it more.

05 Feb 2004 | Jeff Chapman said...

Found at:

11 hrs ago

The main issue with Basecamp is it approaches project management from the wrong vantage point. It focuses almost exclusively on the process of updates and communication, acting as a central repository for information and notes.

It's in essence, a heavily categorized blog.

Which is a decent way to go about things. That's what happens in most web projects. You're given a task, or a milestone, you send emails back and forth to your client, you send images, links to alphas, you try and keep everyone in the loop. Usually, this is done via email, ccing everyone in the company, and for many people, carefully organizing folders in their email client of choice with dates, etc. As a project manager, you have to do lists and dates, and usually you're using something like iCal or Outlook to get all this done. We do it this way because text and email and folders are the most flexible way of doing things.

But the problems with project management mostly happen between many different projects. It's hard to force yourself as a manager to use one hierarchy of folders, one process for updates, one template for bids/contracts etc. Project management has to adapt to how your client works. Some are organized, some aren't and some send everything in faxes and scrawled notes. It's fair to say that no project management system could be as flexible as the giant binder/email/calendar approach. The best project managers I know wield these tools like swords.

Which is where the flexibility your offering might make sense. You're not forcing a hierarchy on your customers, and providing rudimentary and abstract tools that can be wielded as needed. No templates, no rigid information structure.

Where it's failing is, and I'm hoping it won't be in the future, is that while it provides fairly abstract tools, it doesn't deal with the core problems of project management.

Workflow, accountability and archiving.

First, as a project manager, you need a constant grasp on what's in whose court, when they're supposed to have it done by, whose it supposed to go to next. Your like a traffic cop between 1000 streets, directing traffic, approving things, rejecting them, blowing your whistle when cars are speeding up and nearly clashing into each other. Any software you use needs to provide a way to stop information from going one place before it goes to the next, of telling the next person what they're supposed to do with it, and making sure the right eyes see only what they need to see.

While yes, it's possible to do this with Basecamp, it's not a fundamental part of how the software attacks the problem.

Accountability is even more important. Who has what? Who did what? When did they do it? As a project manager, you need to quickly be able to glance at a dashboard and know where everything in your company is. Sure, the information is all there in Basecamp, but it's nothing more than text. It has no structure, no hierarchy. I can't jump to a page and see what every person I'm dealing with should be doing right now. What I should be doing. It requires the same mental excercie of scanning an email inbox and clicking on every subject line to remind yourself of what's going on.

Finally, archiving isn't tackled. Files aren't given information or background (they're not even apart of the interface). The things we deal with most require the same amount of work in Basecamp as they do in Outlook. Post a file to an FTP server, email the client the link, get a response, tweak if you have to. No revision management, no list of things to be done attached the file. No back-tracing, no searching.

I think you've abstracted the wrong things. You made the collaboration as easy as possible, but you haven't considered just why these parties are collaborating. What are they working on? What will they need to do next?

I love the 37signals design aesthetic, and Basecamp is attractive if only for that reason. But when I look at the core of what you've done, I wonder how much creep you can add to the project when things as fundamental to project management as the above are overlooked.

05 Feb 2004 | JF said...

Yep, etchalon and I have been going back and forth over it.

Basecamp is a different way to look at project management. It's a lot more about communication and conversation than stats, figures, and tracking an employee's every move.

I'll counter his post with these comments.

05 Feb 2004 | Brad Hurley said...

Have you considered allowing people to put actual files on your server instead of having to post them elsewhere and link to them from Basecamp? You could offer this as part of a premium-priced service, since the files would take up space on your server.

The reason I ask is that I do a lot of back-and-forth with my clients with Word files, and it would be great if they could simply post a file instead of having to send it to me to post on my server. None of my clients have the slightest idea of how to post a file on their own servers, or how to use FTP, etc....they'd need something simple and intuitive.

05 Feb 2004 | David Heinemeier Hansson said...

Yes, Basecamp does indeed fall short of offering "project cops" additional tools to direct, approve, reject, and punish subordinates. Basecamp is about facilitating progress within teams of capable and driven individuals. Keyword being team. It's not about pushing metrics up the chain of command.

05 Feb 2004 | JP said...

Have you considered allowing people to put actual files on your server instead of having to post them elsewhere and link to them from Basecamp? You could offer this as part of a premium-priced service, since the files would take up space on your server.

I really like Brad Hurley's idea. I think the multi-step file upload process might keep my organization from using Basecamp. I'll probably write a quick page that will allow our team to upload files to our extranet and spit out a link for use in Basecamp.

Uploading files directly to the Basecamp server might eat up space and bandwidth pretty quickly. What about a customizable script (in PHP/Perl/etc.) that clients can easily modify and put on their servers to receive and store file uploads through Basecamp?

05 Feb 2004 | JF said...

We're working on two file upload options:

1. Upload to our server
2. Upload to your server through Basecamp. This will keep the files on your server, but it will save you a few steps.

We have a lot more planned. Stay tuned.

05 Feb 2004 | Brad Hurley said...

Cool! The only headache (well, not the ONLY headache, but the biggest one that comes to mind) is that then you'd probably need to set up a check in/check out system for folks who need to prevent edits from being done simultaneously by different people.

05 Feb 2004 | Taylor Garries said...

The one thing I thought of as soon as you launched (but hadn't considered it beforehand) is allowing clients to point subdomains to basecamp. goes to basecamp. I think that would bring the service closer to true transparency, which is critical for your service to succeed (IMHO).

05 Feb 2004 | angelday said...

Nice software guys, just what I needed. (Will upgrade my subscription soon.)

Here are some features I'm really looking forward in future versions:

- allow different color schemes for different projects
- allow project logo for different projects
- internationalization
- global user list (like in an address book) to assign people quickly to projects

05 Feb 2004 | JF said...

allow project logo for different projects

You can upload a logo for each client and it will be displayed on the All Posts page. Just go to the Contacts screen, edit the company, and you'll see an option to upload the logo at the bottom.

05 Feb 2004 | mindful_learner said...

Brad's comments also interested me. Even though I previously had some doubts about basecamp, there is one type of usage that would benefit me enormously. I work in the e-learning world, and I'm constantly sending content back and forth to customers as well as content scripts that are written and rewritten in a drafting process. If my customers (and myself) could directly access the content and scripts from basecamp along with associated notes this could be very useful. It would certainly keep my Inbox clear. One killer feature for me would be a type of version control - if I had downloaded a script (i.e. a file) and I was working on it this would be 'locked' until I had finished so my client wouldn't also be scripting and therefore building up multiple copies that would have to be later integrated together ( a job that Word is lousy at).

Well, that's the positive. Two slightly more negative comments on the Basecamp for Project Management side (especially if file sharing is included):

1) Security will be key - it has to be pretty damn convincing or my clients just wouldn't take the risk
2) I'm not sure I want to share all my project management tasks/thoughts with my customers - sometimes I might want them to see a sanitised view rather than everything I'm doing (do I want them to see I've missed deadlines or see that comment from one of my team saying they've screwed up?)


05 Feb 2004 | JF said...

I'm not sure I want to share all my project management tasks/thoughts with my customers - sometimes I might want them to see a sanitised view rather than everything I'm doing (do I want them to see I've missed deadlines or see that comment from one of my team saying they've screwed up?

See this entry at Everything Basecamp. Might be helpful for you.

05 Feb 2004 | Mike said...

The subdomain pointing really has nothing to do with 37signals or Basecamp, but more on your server.

Make a subdomain point to some directory on your server; name it "" or whatever. Then, put a form on that page that uses the custom action attribute target to point to your Basecamp project login. Check out this Basecamp blog entry with a little more on how to do it.

05 Feb 2004 | mindful_learner said...

I can see these type of shared community blogs being popular with all sorts of groups. I can imagine teenagers having a shared blog where they can post to each other, share things like music files, schedule in meetings and all the other stuff that they like to do to keep in touch..

Just a random thought.

There was once a site called something like that had this idea a long time ago: community areas with posting, chat and other utilities...

Another random thought...

05 Feb 2004 | Jonny Roader said...

I like it so far, but two issues (one important, one trivial) have crossed my mind:

1. Security, as has been pointed out, is critical. Have you considered getting Basecamp audited by a security firm? I would want some kind of external assurance about the privacy and stability of the system before recommending to my clients for anything other than a test run.

2. Have I missed something, or is it impossible to edit post comments? Already I've had to delete entire posts because I've said something stupid in the comments.

Also, in a slightly cheeky aside, I suspect I'm not the only SVN regular who holds down a day job as well as working freelance. I have already set up a project for my own business in order to road test the system with my own clients, but I'd like to use it for projects in my 'proper' job too where the reactions of the people I would seek to involve could be very different (not least because of privacy and security concerns). it 'one person, one free login' or 'one organisation, one free login'? And, if the latter, how are you going to stop ne'er-do-wells from simply registering different free accounts for different projects under different names?

06 Feb 2004 | JF said...

1. We have taken appropriate security measures and we are about to go through a professional third-party audit.

2. Comments can't be deleted yet. We struggled with this because there's an accountability issue if people can delete comments. Someone could say something and then go back and either delete or edit what they said. But, we have some ideas on how to handle this so we're working on it.

06 Feb 2004 | Ian said...

Hmmm... What a lovely surprise... But it shouldn't have been as I signed up for the launch mailing list. Oh well...

06 Feb 2004 | Dan James said...

First: Congrats on the launch. The product looks really really good. You've done a remarkable job on the "marketing" material
too. So good in fact I felt myself wanting to sign up even though i don't need it!

re: etchalon on

etchalon is referencing a very ridgid form of project management. One laced with ties, sports jackets, and risk analysis. Whie that level of rigor is often needed in a large and somewhat clumsy organization, I don't think that is who Basecamp is targeting. Basecamp, to me at least, is aiming directly at small groups of creative people who share information. Project management is an organic process for these groups something very foreign to "project managers" in the stereotypical sense of the position.

We've often been pushed to, as etchelon has just done, to make our collaborative tool more like MS Project, we've resisted, and the product is better for doing so.

Keep up the good work of resisting and of course beautiful design.

06 Feb 2004 | Jack Shedd said...

Just about everyone is missing what I said (etchalon).

Oh well. If it works for you, rock on you crazy stars.

06 Feb 2004 | Mike P. said...

Using it and loving for a bit now.

My only comment (though it seems that either I've really missed something or work differently than other people) is that it would be nice to lay out tasks in phases (that would be the phpCollab in me).

What I'd like to know though, is what's the scoop behind the codename 'Misto'?

06 Feb 2004 | JF said...

Ahh, Misto. It's a restaurant across the street.

06 Feb 2004 | TL said...

Ahh, Misto. It's a restaurant across the street.

And if you go there at the right time, the owner will serenade you.

07 Feb 2004 | Mike P. said...

It's a restaurant across the street.

Haha! And there we all were, taking swings and guesses.

So when is the 37Signals 'oil mister' coming out? ;-]

07 Feb 2004 | JD said...

Simply fantastic job!

I really liked the fact that the tool JUST WORKS! Great show guys!

According to me the best thing about tool is that it doesn't have any 'Powered by Buttons/Text'. Makes it much easier to impress my clients! :) [For client testimonial, Check]


07 Feb 2004 | JD said...

Is there a way I can be notified by email about all the comments to particular post? Currently I don't see anyway I can subscribe for notification for particular post.

I think it will be nice addition to your 'Feature List.'


Comments on this post are closed

Back to Top ^