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Page’s Law? Try Wirth’s Law. Or Gates’s.

May 29th, 2009 · 10 Comments · Uncategorized

I hesitate to cite Valleywag as a news source, but I did read there that Sergey Brin is crediting fellow Google co-founder Larry Page with “Page’s Law“, the assertion that software gets twice as slow every 18 months, and thus outpaces Moore’s law.

Fortunately for Page, he is already assured of a solid entry in the history books. Because Page’s Law sounds suspiciously like Wirth’s law, pronounced by computer science titan Niklaus Wirth in 1995: “Software is getting slower more rapidly than hardware becomes faster.” In fact, the more precise version cited by Page is known as Gates’s law–though I don’t think Bill Gates want to take credit for it.

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Scott Rosenberg // May 29, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Good catch. I covered Wirth’s Law extensively in Dreaming in Code. I would think Sergey would know about it — particularly since Google’s own software practice is a pretty good counterexample (Google’s search engine hasn’t slowed down appreciably over the years!).

  • 2 Daniel Tunkelang // May 29, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Indeed, it would have been much more biting to refer to it as Gates’s Law–though perhaps a bit too catty. :-)

    By the way, welcome to The Noisy Channel! I appreciate your engaging me on my home turf re: newspapers charging for content. It’s not everyday I see a co-founder of Salon in these parts!

  • 3 Jamie Edwards // May 29, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Don’t forget May’s law:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_May_(computer_scientist)

  • 4 Daniel Tunkelang // May 29, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Jamie, nice catch–sorry I missed that one!

  • 5 Jamie Edwards // May 29, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Daniel; I actually think David’s law pre-dates Wirth’s. Unfortunately I do not know of any citation for it (nor does the Wikipedia article author).

    Oh well

  • 6 Daniel Tunkelang // May 29, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    I can’t find anything on David’s Law earlier than 2005, e.g., http://www.cs.bris.ac.uk/~dave/moore.pdf. That’s a decade later than the date cited for Wirth’s Law.

  • 7 Jamie Edwards // May 29, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    He actually coined the term a lot longer before that (I was lectured by him). I’ll try find out

  • 8 Jim Morris // Jun 4, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    That’s why I’d LOVE to get a NEW computer, running Windows XP. Take new hardware and pair with OLD software and you feel like a king. Most software like SnagIt 9 appear to jump the shark at some point. I reverted to SnagIt 8.

  • 9 Daniel Tunkelang // Jun 4, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    My wife is about to get a netbook, and that’s probably what she’ll do. So we’d better hurry up and decide whose law it is! I’ll tentatively accept it as David’s.

  • 10 Jim // Aug 5, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    “Google’s search engine hasn’t slowed down appreciably over the years!”

    This is totally false. Try using Google over dial-up, it’s unbearably slow. You just don’t notice over broadband.

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