What happens to SuperMemo if Woz or SuperMemo World dies?

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Question

Raj asked on July 17, 2020:


Will SuperMemo really last long-term?

Someone considering using SuperMemo asked me roughly: Anki is open source while SuperMemo is closed. Presumably if Woz or SuperMemo World stop working on SuperMemo, wouldn't users be in trouble long-term (over decades?)? While SuperMemo 18 as is would work for quite some time, at some point it is likely to stop working with latest windows.

If someone is committing to using it for the rest of their life, isn't it risky to depend on a single (assumed) developer and company with no options of it stops being developed?

Do you have a plan for SM in case the worst of the worst happens?

Hint

This has been answered at SuperMemopedia.com. In short, all mechanisms are in place for black scenarios. If the internet goes dead, things may get more complicated but even coronavirus is a "minor disaster" in comparison.

Random thought

Long-time user here. I hope that Woz lives forever and ever. A great man with a great mind. I admire his work ethic and commitment.

User feedback

Related links I found: Worries_about_Future-proofing_of_SuperMemo and Concerns_about_the_future_of_SuperMemo.

Main arguments from above seem to come down to:

  • data is exportable as xml (likely that users would figure out transfer method if SuperMemo stops working)
  • longevity of Windows makes it unlikely for Supermemo to suddenly stop working and if it did, SuperMemo World would immediately work towards fix
  • both supermemo and supermemo world are extremely long lived and likely to be stable going forward

None of the answers mentions the mechanisms you have in place for worst case scenarios. I would still find it useful to hear more about those mechanisms. Is there some link I'm missing?

Backup

If you worry about a nuclear attack, you may be a bit reassured to know that the source code (SuperMemo 18) is held safely on 3 continents (and less formally in more locations). It is not opened due to a trade secret on the algorithm, which has been a policy from 1991.

By analogy, if you have Excel files, you may have the exactly same worries. Microsoft has ditched many products in the past. Your best safety is in an open data format (e.g. XML). Even video files (e.g. AVI) may require a conversion in the future. Old SuperMemos can be run in various emulation modes. If you have a functional Pocket PC, you can still use SuperMemo CE 1.0 from 1999.

See also