Basecamp is an online tool that helps teams collaborate, communicate, and manage projects. Teams use Basecamp to keep track of to-do lists, visualize project timelines, and exchange messages with team members, clients, and/or partners. Some experts consider Basecamp to be a collaboration tool rather than a true project management software because it lacks some of the core features consistent among project management software vendors like Gantt charts and Kanban boards.
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As a company, Basecamp’s current software offering consists of two primary products: Basecamp and HEY.
Basecamp is the company’s flagship software. It was the first application built using Ruby on Rails, a programming framework created by Basecamp partner David Heinemeier Hansson. Many popular apps and sites like Twitter, GitHub, and Shopify were also built using Ruby on Rails.
At the core of Basecamp are multiple open-source projects. These include:
- Trix: A rich text editor for writing messages, comments, articles, and lists
- Turbolinks: A tool that improves web app navigation speed
There are a number of versatile tools within the broader Basecamp application that support effective communication and project management. Hill Charts, for example, are Basecamp’s proprietary visualization feature based on to-do lists. A Hill Chart shows a project timeline in two phases: problem solving and execution. An example of a Hill Chart is depicted in the gif below:
Other Basecamp features include:
- Campfire, a real-time group chat tool
- Message boards
- Direct messages
- To-do lists
- Documents and file storage
- Client access
In addition to the Basecamp platform, the company also offers an email service called HEY. The goal of HEY is to make email smarter and easier to manage compared to traditional email services like Gmail and Microsoft Outlook. HEY also gives users more control over who can email them and what data the email sender can track. As such, HEY has better privacy controls than many other email providers.
Some other unique features of HEY include:
- HEY World, a tool that allows users to publish web pages from an email
- Renamable subject lines
- Collections, which groups all communications related to a specific project
- Focus & Reply, which limits distractions while responding to emails
- New For You & Previously Seen, which puts unread messages at the top of the inbox
Basecamp was originally founded in 2004 under the name 37Signals. A group of web designers realized they needed a more efficient project management tool than the ones they were using, so they built their first application for internal use only. As they started using their app for more projects, their clients began asking to use the app for themselves.
Within a year of Basecamp’s launch, the company had generated more revenue from the application than web design services. In 2006, Basecamp’s trajectory gained a lot of momentum when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acquired a minority stake.
37Signals launched several other software products between 2006 and 2014. All of these products have been closed to new sign-ups, but the company still supports them for active users. These products include:
- Campfire: A web-based instant messaging application
- Breeze: A mailing list tool for small groups
- Ta-da List: A free to-do list browser extension
- Highrise: A customer relationship management (CRM) software
In 2014, 37Signals changed its name to Basecamp to align the company’s branding with its flagship product. In April 2021, Basecamp announced changes to its internal company policies. Specifically, the announcement said Basecamp would be forbidding controversial socio-political topics of discussion on internal communication channels. As a result, approximately one third of the company’s staff resigned.
Basecamp’s co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have published several books. These include:
- Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters
- It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work
- Remote: Office Not Required
- Getting Real