Eating your own dog food

Eating your own dog food

Eating your own dog food, also called dogfooding, is when a company (usually, a software company) uses the products that it makes.[1] In 1988, Microsoft manager Paul Maritz sent Brian Valentine, test manager for Microsoft LAN Manager, an email titled "Eating our own Dogfood", challenging him to increase internal usage of the company's product. From there, the usage of the term spread through the company.[2][3] Dogfooding can be a way for a company to demonstrate confidence in its own products, and hence a kind of testimonial advertising.[4] For example, Microsoft and Google emphasize the internal use of their own software products. The idea behind "eating your own dog food" is that if you expect customers to buy your products, you should also be willing to use them.[5] InfoWorld commented that this needs to be transparent and honest: "watered-down examples, such as auto dealers' policy of making salespeople drive the brands they sell, or Coca-Cola allowing no Pepsi products in corporate offices ... are irrelevant."[6] The risks of public failure when using a company's own products may explain the limited amount of public dogfooding.[6] A perceived advantage beyond marketing is that it should allow employees to test the products in real, complex scenarios,[5][7] and it gives management pre-launch a sense of progress as the product is being used in practice.[7]


"Microsoft's use of Windows and .NET would be irrelevant except for one thing: Its software project leads and on-line services managers do have the freedom to choose."

Tom Yager, InfoWorld[6]

Apple Computer president Michael Scott in 1980 wrote a memo announcing that "EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY!! NO MORE TYPEWRITERS ARE TO BE PURCHASED, LEASED, etc., etc." by the computer company, with a goal to eliminate typewriters by 1 January 1981.[8]

The development of Windows NT at Microsoft involved over 200 developers in small teams, and it was held together by Dave Cutler's insistence in February 1991 on dogfooding, developing the operating system on computers running on NT using a daily build, initially text only, then with graphics, and finally with networking. It was initially crash prone, but the immediate feedback of code breaking the build, the loss of pride, and the knowledge of impeding the work of others were all powerful incentives.[9][10] Infoworld reported in 2005 that a tour of Microsoft's Network operations center "showed pretty much beyond a reasonable doubt that Microsoft does run its 20,000-plus node, international network on 99 percent Windows technology, including servers, workstations, and edge security."[11] InfoWorld argued that "Microsoft's use of Windows for its high-traffic operations tipped many doubters over to Windows' side of the fence," though John C. Dvorak writing in PC Magazine about Microsoft's dogfooding complained that "I'm still baffled by some of the long-term annoyances we suffer with Windows."[5] In the mid-1990s, Microsoft's internal email system was initially developed around Unix. When asked why, they publicly moved to using Microsoft Exchange. In 2000, they advertised vacancies for Unix administrators for a Microsoft-run web hosting service.[12]

In 1999, Hewlett-Packard staff referred to a project using HP's own products as "Project Alpo".[13]

When Time Warner merged with AOL in 2001, AOL's email system was adopted by the new AOL Time Warner, resulting in lost emails and productivity. Use of the system was discontinued.[7]

Government green public procurement that allows testing of proposed environmental policies has been compared to dogfooding.[14]

On June 1, 2011, YouTube added a license feature to its video uploading service allowing users to choose between a standard or Creative Commons license.[15][16] The license label was followed by the message (Shh! - Internal Dogfood) that appeared on all YouTube videos lacking commercial licensing.[17] A YouTube employee confirmed that this referred to products that are tested internally.[18]


The editor of IEEE Software recounts that in the 1980s television advertisements for Alpo dog food, Lorne Greene pointed out that he fed Alpo to his own dogs. Another possible origin is the president of Kal Kan Pet Food, who was said to eat a can of his dog food at shareholders' meetings.[19]

Criticism and alternatives

Forcing those who design products to actually use and rely on them is often thought to improve quality and usability, but software developers may be blind to usability and may have knowledge to make software work that an end user will lack.[7] Microsoft's chief information officer noted in 2008 that, previously, "We tended not to go through the actual customer experience. We were always upgrading from a beta, not from production disk to production disk."[20] Dogfooding may happen too early to be viable, and those forced to use the products may assume that someone else has reported the problem or they may get used to applying workarounds. Dogfooding may be unrealistic, as customers will always have a choice of different company's products to use together, and the product may not be being used as intended. The process can lead to a loss of productivity and demoralisation,[7] or at its extreme to "Not Invented Here syndrome"; i.e., only using internal products.[19]

In 2007, the CIO of Pegasystems said that she uses the alternate phrase "drinking our own champagne".[21] Novell's head of public relations Bruce Lowry, commenting on his company's use of Linux and, said that he also prefers this phrase.[22] In 2009, the new CIO of Microsoft, Tony Scott, argued that the phrase "dogfooding" was unappealing and should be replaced by "icecreaming", with the aim of developing products as "ice cream that our customers want to consume."[23]

See also


  1. ^ Miguel Helft (December 12, 2009). "Google Appears Closer to Releasing Its Own Phone". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-12. "On Saturday morning, Google confirmed that it was testing a new concept in mobile phones, writing in a blog post that it was 'dogfooding' the devices, an expression that comes from the idea that companies should eat their own dog food, or use their own products." 
  2. ^ Inside Out: Microsoft—In Our Own Words (ISBN 0446527394)
  3. ^ Brodkin, John (4 September 2009). "VMworld 2009: Virtualization, controversy and eating your own dog food". Network World. Retrieved 17 May 2010.  Quote: "[Paul] Maritz also poked fun at himself by claiming that one of his only contributions to the IT world is coining the commonly used "eat your own dog food" phrase. "You can read about it on Wikipedia, so it must be true," Maritz said.
  4. ^ "Microsoft tests its own 'dog food'". Retrieved 2009-11-14. [dead link]
  5. ^ a b c Dvorak, John C. (15 November 2007). "The Problem with Eating Your Own Dog Food". PC Magazine.,2817,2217007,00.asp. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c Yager, Tom (30 May 2003). "If it's good enough for Fido … Vendors need to follow Microsoft's playbook". Developer World. InfoWorld. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Ash, Lydia (2003). The Web testing companion: the insider's guide to efficient and effective tests. ITPro collection. Wiley. p. 17. ISBN 0471430218. 
  8. ^ Ditlea, Steve (1981-10-01). "An Apple On Every Desk". Inc.. Retrieved March 6, 2011. 
  9. ^ Bolman, Lee G.; Deal, Terrence E. (2003). Reframing organizations: artistry, choice, and leadership. Jossey-Bass business & management series; Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series (3 ed.). John Wiley and Sons. p. 64. ISBN 0787964263. 
  10. ^ Zachary, Pascal G. (2009). Showstopper! the Breakneck Race to Create Windows Nt and the Next Generation. E-reads/E-rights. p. 135. ISBN 0759285780. 
  11. ^ Rist, Oliver (29 December 2005). "The Microsoft machine churns on". InfoWorld. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  12. ^ Cringely, Robert X. (14 August 2000). "Microsoft forgoes eating dog food in favor of Unix as Bobby sneaks a burger". InfoWorld. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  13. ^ Field, Tom (15 August 1999). "Unleash innovation". CIO. Retrieved 17 May 2010.  Note: Alpo is a brand of dog food.
  14. ^ Johnstone, Nick (2003). The environmental performance of public procurement: issues of policy coherence. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. ISBN 9264101551. 
  15. ^ Peterson, Stace (2 June 2011). "YouTube and Creative Commons: raising the bar on user creativity". The Official YouTube Blog. 
  16. ^ LaPine, John (2 June 2011). "(Shh! – Internal Dogfood) – YouTube introduces Creative Commons Attribution license". Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  17. ^ "You Tube - Copyright Education - Creative Commons". Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  18. ^ "YouTube Help Forum". 
  19. ^ a b Harrison, Warren (May/June 2006). "Eating Your Own Dog Food". IEEE Software (IEEE) 23 (3): 5–7. doi:10.1109/MS.2006.72. 
  20. ^ Sperling, Ed (15 December 2008). "Eating Their Own Dog Food". Forbes. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  21. ^ "Pegasystems CIO Tells Colleagues: Drink Your Own Champagne". Retrieved 2007-07-05. 
  22. ^ "Novell comments on its transition to Linux desktops". DesktopLinux. Ziff Davis Enterprise. 13 April 2006. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  23. ^ "Microsoft CIO on a mission to make ice cream out of dog food". TechFlash. November 10, 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 

External links

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