A few weeks ago I posted a teaser of something we’ve been working on. I said it was a little something, but it’s actually a big something. We’ve been working on it for over a year. It will lay the foundation for a lot of great stuff in the future.

Over 150 people guessed what it was, and to our surprise, the seventh guess was spot on:

Looks like a identity card or license to me. I’m going to guess unification of user accounts across all apps into a single “37signals id” for each user. If I’m right I will be very happy. Been waiting for years.

It’s been hard to keep this bottled up. We’re really pumped to introduce this major improvement across our paid product line. We’re still working on it, but we wanted to begin to share what we’ve been working on with you.

First… Why?

Everything we do starts with a reason. And the reasons are plentiful for this particular project.

Today, every Basecamp, Highrise, Backpack, and Campfire account has its own namespace. This means that across all of our products there could be 1000 people with the username “joe123”.

That’s a real pain for our customers. It means our customers might have to remember multiple usernames/passwords across accounts. It means people have to remember different subdomains and web addressees to log into their accounts if they use more than one product or have multiple accounts on the same product. It’s not an ideal experience.

And it’s a real pain for us. We can’t offer features, integrations, and aggregations we’d like to offer because of how users are currently identified (or unidentified) in our products.

The solution

The solution is for every customer to have a single username and password to get into any of their 37signals product accounts. If they have one Basecamp and one Highrise, the username/password would be the same. If they have 4 Basecamp accounts, a Campfire account, and 2 Backpack accounts, they’d be able to log into any of them with the same username/password. This is called a global namespace.

A global namespace means the “joe123” username in Basecamp is the same person as “joe123” in Backpack or Highrise or even another Basecamp account. This is the same way Google, Yahoo and many other companies with multiple products are set up. It’s the right way.

You’ll have a 37signals Account

We will be calling these new global accounts 37signals Accounts. Every 37signals customer will be asked to create a 37signals Account. This new 37signals Account will be the username/password people will use to log into all of their 37signals products. You’ll now have the same username/password no matter which 37signals product you use.

We recognize that asking everyone to change their username/password once is painful — we feel it too — but we believe the long term pleasure will quickly replace the short term pain. We will be phasing in the new username/password selection over an extended period of time, so everyone will have ample time to make the change. More on this in a future post.

Why is a global namespace (a 37signals Account) good?

There are so many reasons. Here are just a few:

  • A global login at 37signals.com. We’ll now have a global login screen on the 37signals.com site. Log in there, and we’ll present you with a list of all your accounts. You can then click the account you want to go to and we’ll take you right there. For example, if you have 3 Basecamp accounts, 2 Highrise accounts, a Campfire account and a Backpack account, we’ll show you a list of all these accounts when you log in. Pick, click, and go. (We’ll have login screens on each individual marketing site as well.)
  • Integration! One of the longest standing requests has been tighter integration between our products. This has been a challenge before since we didn’t know if joe123 in Basecamp was joe123 in Highrise. There are complicated verification steps we could have put people through to confirm joe123 is joe123 (or that joe123 in Basecamp is the same person as joe456 in Highrise), but we didn’t like that experience. But once everyone has a 37signals Account, we’ll know, for example, that you have both a Basecamp and Highrise account. That means we can begin to lay the foundation to share information between your accounts.
  • Aggregation! Once we know who you are across products, we can aggregate your data. For example, we would be able to show you all your tasks across all products. Or we could show you any upcoming timed items from the Backpack Calendar, Basecamp milestones, and Highrise tasks in one place. These are just a few of the examples of things we can do with aggregated data. (Note: These are just examples of things we can do – they aren’t promises of things we will do.)
  • Open Bar for everyone. People who use OpenID with our products already have access to the Open Bar. The Open Bar lists all the products/accounts you have with us at the top of the screen. You can move between apps and account with a single click. It’s pretty killer. Open Bar even remembers where you left off in each app so it’ll drop you in the right place when you switch apps. Once everyone has a 37signals Account everyone will have an Open Bar.
  • Suites, bundles, and multiple product discounts. Lots of people have been asking if they can buy all the 37signals products at once or get a discount if they have multiple Basecamp accounts (for example). When everyone has a 37signals Account, we’ll know who you are, what products you have, how many you have, etc., so we can begin thinking about bulk discounts, selling our products as a single package, etc. We think a lot of people are really going to like this.
  • Better security. As part of the 37signals Account overhaul, we’ve completely rewritten the username/password system to be more secure for everyone. More details on this in a future post.

A phased approach

This is a big change so it’s going to be deployed in phases. We’ll be detailing these phases in future posts. What’s exciting is how much flexibility 37signals Accounts offer us and our customers. We’ve been unable to do a lot of things we’ve wanted to do because we didn’t have a global namespace. Once that limitation is lifted we’ll have a whole new set of possibilities in front of us.


When are we going to roll out 37signals Accounts? We’re not sure. We’re still working on it, but we’re finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We do expect to launch the basics this year. These changes touch every app, and many of these changes fundamentally change the way accounts work in each app (which is a very deep change), so it’s a lot of careful work. We want to get it right so it’s going take some more time.

More soon

We’re really pumped about this change. We’ll be sharing more about the plan and transition over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for some big changes and announcements!