On 8 December 2019, Celadon Trucking went bankrupt. It had been established in 1985 and was one of the largest trucking companies in the U.S.. In the discussion that inevitably followed, a blog article mentioned, among other things:
Choosing big companies come[s] with a big false sense of security, when in reality the “safe” choice isn’t nearly as safe as it seems. At the end of the day, there isn’t a single provider who is immune to hardship or failure. From the towering enterprises, to the smallest of startups, no one is too big to fail or too small to succeed. When it comes time for you to choose a new provider, choose the one that’s best for you. Regardless of size.
Does the same apply to software? It does. In fact, software is probably worse in this respect. It’s not only that companies can fail; it’s that their priorities can change, as has happened with Waffle, Microsoft, and Google.
Of course things are not entirely comparable. When a trucking company fails, operations cease immediately and you will be left wondering where your freight is. When a software company fails or discontinues a product, it depends. Maybe you will be notified ahead, sometimes a few months (as happened with Waffle) or a few years (as with Google’s AngularJS). Maybe you won’t (as with Excel 97), but if it’s not an online service and it’s installed on your systems then you have some time to switch. The cost of switch, however, can be orders of magnitude higher than switching carriers.
Incidentally, I’m still left wondering how bankruptcy of trucking companies works. Why did the Celadon truck drivers have to clear their trucks within 20 minutes? I suspect it’s illegal for a truck that belongs to no-one to be on the road, but still it seems strange to me. What happens to these trucks afterwards? If anyone knows, I’m all ears.