Do you remember this scenario from days of yore?

  • Company A buys a software license from Company B, a startup.
  • Company A crosses its fingers that Company B doesn’t go bankrupt and disappear, along with the source code for Company A’s mission-critical software.
  • Company B goes kaput.
  • Company A is left with some machine-readable binary code that it is powerless to develop or use.

Source code escrow has changed the outcome of this sticky situation for the better, and here’s how: Countless software companies go out of business every year, and either their code disappears entirely or goes to another company that doesn’t do any development or maintenance on it. The concept of escrow is one way in which open source gives companies a chance to continue their contribution and innovation, because the code they wrote can outlive them and continue to be evolved by the community.  I covered this topic in my most recent post on the Network World open source subnet. I invite your feedback: what’s your experience with source code or open source escrow? Any best practices or cautionary tales to share? Looking forward to hearing from you.