Basecamp (company)

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Privately held company
Founded 1999; 17 years ago (1999)
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Key people
Products Basecamp, Ruby on Rails, Backpack, Campfire, Highrise
Services Web applications
Number of employees
36 (2013, Fried: 12 in Chicago and 24 elsewhere)[1]

Basecamp, formerly known as 37signals, is a privately held American web application company based in Chicago, Illinois. The firm was co-founded in 1999 by Jason Fried, Carlos Segura, and Ernest Kim as a web design company. Segura left in 2000 and Kim left in 2003, leaving Fried as the only remaining founder.

In February 2014, the company adopted a new strategy, focusing entirely on its flagship product, Basecamp, and renaming the company from 37signals to Basecamp.[2]

Since mid-2004, the company's focus has shifted from web design to web application development. Its first commercial application was Basecamp; this was followed by Backpack, Campfire, and Highrise. It maintained two freeware web applications, Ta-Da List and Writeboard. However, both of these are now closed to new users and similar functionality has been incorporated in their (chargeable) product, Basecamp.[3] The open source web application framework Ruby on Rails was initially created for internal use at 37signals, before being publicly released in 2004.

The company was originally named after the 37 radio telescope signals identified by astronomer Paul Horowitz as potential messages from extraterrestrial intelligence.[4] In 2006, co-founder Jason Fried was named to the MIT Technology Review TR35 as one of the top 35 innovators in the world under the age of 35.[5]


The company's initial focus was on website redesign, including work for Panera Bread and The website was designed by web design service, whereby a single web page would be redesigned for a set fee in one week.[citation needed]

Work on the company's first product, the project management application Basecamp, began in 2003.

By 2005, the company had moved away from consulting work to focus exclusively on its web applications. The Ruby on Rails web application framework was extracted from the work on Basecamp and released as open source.

On July 20, 2006, the company announced that Jeff Bezos had acquired a minority stake via his personal investment company, Bezos Expeditions.[6]

Signal vs. Noise[edit]

The company maintains a blog, Signal vs. Noise, which was launched in 1999.[7] Content since February 2005 is archived, and the blog is powered by a custom-built blogging tool, having formerly used Movable Type.[8] The blog generates revenue from advertising.

Ruby on Rails[edit]

Main article: Ruby on Rails

Ruby on Rails is a free web application framework created by David Heinemeier Hansson, one of the 37signals programmers. It was originally used to make 37signals' first product, Basecamp, and was since extracted and released as open source in 2004, as well as being the framework that 37signals use to make their web applications.[citation needed] Often shortened to "Rails" or "RoR", it is programmed in the Ruby programming language.

The official Ruby on Rails website states that it is "sponsored by 37signals". The development of Ruby on Rails is now managed by the Rails Core Team, with Hansson still contributing.


As of October 2010, 37signals has created four commercial web-based applications and two free web-based applications.


Backpack is a web-based personal information manager and intranet for small business. The application has two main functions: user-created pages (which can include text, images, and files) and an iCalendar format calendar.

Features of the user-created pages include to-do lists, inline photo galleries, notes and file attachments, and page sharing. Features of the calendar include support for iCalendar, email/SMS reminders, color-coding of calendars, and iCalendar sharing. Backpack is no longer accepting new users.


Main article: Basecamp (software)

Basecamp is 37signals' first product, a web-based project management tool launched in 2004.[9] The Ruby on Rails framework was extracted from the Basecamp project.

Basecamp's primary features are to-do lists, milestone management, forum-like messaging, file sharing, and time tracking.

An API exists for Basecamp, allowing interaction with other web and desktop applications; an example of this is the creation of desktop widgets.


Campfire is a business-oriented online chat service, launched on February 16, 2006.[10] The application uses Ajax technology for real time communication, and supports optional 128-bit SSL encryption. To use the application, users must either create a new chat room or be invited to one. Unless a chat room is specifically chosen to be "off the record", browsable transcripts of chats and uploaded files are stored for future reference. Images that are uploaded in the GIF, PNG, or JPEG formats are represented as thumbnails in the chat room.


Highrise (originally publicized as "Sunrise",[11] a name which was replaced due to legal issues regarding its trademark status) is a "shared contact management" web application which supports basic CRM tasks.[12] The application was launched publicly on March 20, 2007.[13]

The application centers on person and company pages, which collate information such as images, notes, and contact detail. "Cases", which are pages/categories within which related notes, images, and people can be kept. The application supports "drop-boxes", whereby a user can email a message to be imported into the account. It also permits importing data from vCards, Microsoft Outlook, ACT!, and Basecamp accounts.

Ta-Da List[edit]

Ta-Da List is a freeware to-do list application launched in January 2005.[14] The application requires account creation, after which to-do lists can be created and edited. It allows the tracking of list modifications via RSS feeds. Lists can be shared either publicly, through a unique URI, or privately as password protected lists. The functionality of the application is based on the lists created for Basecamp and Backpack. Ta-Da List is no longer accepting new users.[15]


Writeboard is a free, collaborative, non-real time text editor, which allows for the creation of password-protected web-based text documents. As in Ta-Da List, changes can be monitored via RSS feeds.

Writeboard supports Diff, a feature which compares different versions of a single documents, and allows basic text formatting through Textile, a WYSIWYM markup language. Writeboards can be linked with Basecamp and Backpack accounts. Writeboard is no longer accepting new users.[16]


Job Board[edit]

37signals operates an employment website known as the 37signals Job Board. In October 2006, the company launched the 37signals Gig Board for one-off jobs; this website had fewer postings and was disestablished in February 2009. In late 2013, 37signals announced that its job board (previously located at is transitioning to a new job board,[17] The company is a founding member of The Deck, a small online advertising network with 47 members (as of October 2010), on which it advertises its products.


On October 21, 2009, 37signals launched Haystack (later renamed Sortfolio), a visual directory of web designers. The application allows clients to favorite firms they like and review them all on one page (that is also printable and sharable). There is no charge for basic listings but a Pro option priced at $99/month. On May 4, 2011, the company announced its intentions to sell Sortfolio, noting it brought between $17,000 and $20,000 in monthly revenue with 195 paying customers.[18]

On July 2, 2012 Basecamp announced the sale of Sortfolio to a group of entrepreneurs.[19]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jason Fried". The Great Discontent. May 1, 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "Two Big Announcements". 37signals. 2014. Retrieved February 4, 2014. 
  3. ^ 37signals website
  4. ^ " What's in a Name?". 37signals. Archived from the original on 27 April 2007. Retrieved April 1, 2007. 
  5. ^ "2006 Young Innovators Under 35". Technology Review. 2006. Retrieved August 15, 2011. 
  6. ^ Arrington, Michael (July 20, 2006). "37 Signals Takes Jeff Bezos Investment". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on 23 March 2008. Retrieved March 21, 2008. 
  7. ^ "Signal vs. Noise at". 37signals, Signal vs. Noise. 1999-11-28. Archived from the original on 2005-12-31.  States "established 1999 in Chicago"
  8. ^ "The new(ish) Signal vs. Noise". Archived from the original on 3 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  9. ^ "Basecamp Launches". 37signals, Signal vs. Noise. February 5, 2004. Retrieved June 15, 2007. 
  10. ^ LAUNCH: Campfire, easy group chat for business - Signal vs. Noise (by 37signals)
  11. ^ "Preview 1: An introduction to Highrise (the product previously known as Sunrise)". 37signals, Signal vs. Noise. February 12, 2007. Archived from the original on 26 March 2007. Retrieved April 1, 2007. 
  12. ^ An Introduction to Highrise on Signal vs. Noise
  13. ^ "LAUNCH: Highrise". 37signals, Signal vs. Noise. March 20, 2007. Archived from the original on 24 March 2007. Retrieved March 20, 2007. 
  14. ^ "LAUNCH: Ta-da list". 37signals, Signal vs. Noise. January 19, 2005. Archived from the original on 4 June 2007. Retrieved June 15, 2007. 
  15. ^ "A note about Ta-da List". Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  16. ^ "A note about Writeboard". Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  17. ^ "Jobs". Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  18. ^ Fried, Jason (May 4, 2011). "Sortfolio deserves a better home. Make us an offer.". Signal vs. Noise. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  19. ^ "Sortfolio lives!". 37signals, Signal vs Noise. July 2, 2012.

External links[edit]