Eating your own dog food, also called dogfooding, is when a company uses the products that it makes. Dogfooding can be a way for a company to demonstrate confidence in its own products, and hence a kind of testimonial advertising. For example, Microsoft and Google emphasize the internal use of their own software products. 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.[verification needed]
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. 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." The risks of public failure when using a company's own products may explain the limited amount of public dogfooding. A perceived advantage beyond marketing is that it should allow employees to test the products in real, complex scenarios, and it gives management pre-launch a sense of progress as the product is being used in practice.
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. 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." 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, or at its extreme to "Not Invented Here syndrome" – i.e., only using internal products.
Microsoft is the most prominent example of a software company known for dogfooding. The development of Windows NT 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. 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." 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." 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.
In 1999, Hewlett-Packard staff referred to a project using HP's own products as "Project Alpo". 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.
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.
In 2007, the CIO of Pegasystems said that she uses the alternate phrase "drinking our own champagne". Novell's head of public relations Bruce Lowry, commenting on his company's use of Linux and OpenOffice, said that he also prefers this phrase. 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."