As IT products proliferate, the phenomenon of abandonware is becoming more apparent. Abandonware is a product, typically software, which has been jettisoned by its owner and manufacturer, and for which no official support is available. Manufacturers or platforms hold a lot of sway over the products they sell or the business services they provide. Since you don’t own the code, there is a danger of your product becoming obsolete if the platform chooses to stop servicing you or if they close down. Motorcyclists wearing a Klim motorcycle airbag vest, for example, were warned that the airbags would stop working if the wearer missed a subscription payment. Obsolete technology left bionic eye patients without the ability to receive support and communication for the Argus II implants. Second Sight stopped making its bionic eyes several years ago to focus on a brain implant instead.
Why is it important?
It’s important to be cognisant of the inherent risks involved with dealing with platforms or businesses that own the code of the products or services you use. The third party has the power to cancel what they offer you. Elizabeth M Renieris, professor of technology ethics at the University of Notre Dame in the US said, “These are not like off-the-shelf products or services that we can actually own or control. Instead we are dependent on software upgrades, proprietary methods and parts, and the commercial drivers and success or failure of for-profit ventures.”
What can businesses do about it?
Businesses are at great risk if a large proportion of their business is conducted through third parties such as Facebook. If the platform decides, for example, to pull out of the country due to regulatory issues, then companies are left stranded without much recourse. Australia forced tech giants Google and Facebook to pay news outlets for the content they display. Google threatened that Australians could lose access to its entire search engine if this came into force. Companies can take steps to not put all their eggs in one basket and be overly reliant on third parties to conduct their business. They can diversify their service providers or try to develop in-house solutions such that they own their software.
By Faeeza Khan
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Image credit: David Pupaza