- Microsoft Word, "Project Pyramid". Never finished, the company decided it would take too long to rewrite + keep up with adding new features.
- Netscape 6. Practically killed the company. Dragged on for years.
- IE4. Turned out OK and made IE the leading browser.
- Ericsson AXE-N. Huge project to rewrite the succesful AXE phone system in an object oriented way. Failed miserably.
I'm sure you can think of a few more. I wonder what Microsoft did right with IE
Git was a rewrite of BitKeeper. Great success.
BIND 9 was a rewrite of BIND 8. Significant improvement.
In 2002 MediaWiki was created as a complete rewrite of the previous software that Wikipedia was running. Astounding success.
Mozilla is a famous rewrite disaster. I have my opinions on it, but this is not the place for that.
PHP 3 was a rewrite of PHP 2. I hate to say good things about PHP, but that rewrite has not been bad for PHP.
Project Xanadu went through a rewrite. This seems to have been a bad thing.
vBulletin only became popular after a version 2 rewrite.
Zope 3 is a rewrite of Zope 2. It does not seem to be a success.
I generated this list by taking the first two off of the top of my head, then I went to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rewrite_%28programming%29 and clicked through to the links to all of the listed projects. If a quick scan for "rewrite" followed by information about how good it was gave me an opinion, I added it to the list.
Other than the obvious effects of survivorship bias, this should be relatively unbiased. From this it doesn't seem that rewrites are necessarily a bad thing.
Incidentally in my personal experience I've been involved with a number of rewrites. Most succeeded. I've seen a number of other rewrites from a distance. Most failed. I consider this mostly luck.
Um, not exactly in the same sense as the article. I would say that Git was inspired by BitKeeper.
I thought Xanadu was vaporware?
I also have the sense that this project suffered a lot from the desire to try to be perfect, and hence failing to be good.
edit: fixed 'not something a startup can't afford' -> 'not something a startup can afford'
If you're interested in this, I highly suggest you read "Show Stopper!". It provides some interesting insights into Microsoft's early days with NT.
I see your point on how you consider this to be a rewrite.
I guess the question I have is, what's the difference between a brand new product, and a rewrite? Up until now I considered windows NT to be a brand new product.
Sometimes rewrites are necessary, but they have to be driven from necessity, not simply from the desire to "start fresh".