Microsoft revises Clippy history

Microsoft tries to rewrite history on Clippy. It wasn’t their fault, it was us customers!  According to this fiction, there was nothing wrong with Clippy but it was ‘ahead of it’s time’ and customers didn’t understand.

That’s complete nonsense.  Anyone who used Office 97 knows that.

Business Insider reports on comments by Microsoft on Clippy – the late and un-lamented feature of Office 97.

Julie Larson-Green the Microsoft Office Chief Experience Officer reveals that she’s the one who unbent Clippy’s paperclip and trashed it.

The interview is part of Microsoft’s promotion of their new ‘bots’ or intelligence features in Cortana and available to developers for their own apps.

We’re now told that Clippy was OK, “We were just ahead of our time with the technology.”  Talk about rewriting history!

Clippy was a disaster, hated by customers and a running joke even over 15 years later.

There’s even Clippy porn.


Microsoft’s revisionist history fails to mention that Clippy was an entirely avoidable disaster.  Microsoft knew Clippy was going to be unpopular before Office 97 went on sale, but they ignored all contrary voices – inside and outside the company.

It’s not the only time that Microsoft has barged ahead with a bad idea – Clippy is just the most famous.

Clippy wasn’t ahead of it’s time … please.  It’s an example of a failing in Microsoft’s corporate culture.


Microsoft sometimes adds a feature that it knows will be of limited use to customers.  But it looks great in demonstrations of new features.

Clippy was an annoyance in regular use, Microsoft knew that.  But it looked great in tightly controlled demos and generated sales – that’s all that mattered.

Not listening to customers

Clippy got really bad feedback all through the internal and external testing of Office 97.  Anyone who used Word 97 beta for any length of time hated the damn thing.

What did Microsoft do in face of this overwhelmingy negative response?   Nothing.

Nothing could shift Microsoft from the Clippy course to disaster and derision.

Could not turn it off!

The biggest problem with Clippy was its persistence.  The option to turn it off didn’t work properly and it took considerable tinkering to kill the persistent little beggar.

(Our editor in chief, Peter Deegan, was nominated for an award for his extensive coverage of Kill Clippy!)

This was something that should have been fixed during the beta testing but wasn’t.

Sound familiar?

If all that sounds familiar … it should.   The same thing happened with the Windows 8 full screen Start Menu.

Plenty of complaints about it during the beta process and no direct way to turn the Start Menu off.   Microsoft insisted that people would love the full screen menu despite the customer feedback and poor sales saying the opposite.

Even in Windows 8.1 Microsoft persisted with the hated Start Menu and grudgingly added an option to skip past it to the desktop.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose … or as Word 2016 translates (badly) “More things change, it is the same thing”

Clippy still lives, now as a dating meme

Don’t panic – Clippy isn’t coming back

Add Office Clippy to your web page

Clippy lives again and coming to a program near you

Bring back the 90’s with online WordArt

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