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What is a shareware ?

Birth of freeware, the precursor of shareware

One year before IBM released its PC, two programmers, Andrew Fluegleman and Jim Knopf, programmed two major applications: PC-Talk (communications software) and PC-File (a basic file manager). The two authors did not wish to invest all of their time and money just to see their creations distributed in retails stores. Thus, they decided to utilize the "underground" distribution networks (mainly BBS' which were very popular at the time) to get their programs to the public. The user was to send money to the author if they wanted to see continued development. Fluegleman officially claimed the term "Freeware" as his own, and did not allow others to release software under the "Freeware" term without his permission.

Fluegleman distributed his software with its source code (a common practice during the public domain days of the 1970's). Unfortunately, this lead to improved versions of PC-Talk being released, and Fluegleman quickly lost control of his own program. Knopf, on the other hand, actively supported his PC-File software and ended up with a multi-million company. There was other Freeware released, such as the famous LIST by Vernon Buerg, but these two major applications established the credibility of Freeware for the first time.

The first shareware

Bob Wallace creates the shareware term In 1983, another programmer, Bob Wallace, created PC-Write , a word processing application which was quickly going to become one of the most important applications ever produced. Because the Freeware term was legally prohibited, and because an alternative name such as User Supported Software was too long and complicated, Wallace decided to employ the term Shareware to describe his software. Shareware eventually removed the existing confusion between Freeware and public domain (where there are no royalties on the software) and stated clearly that the software was not free.

Nelson Ford popularizes the concept with PSL At the beginning, shareware was distributed mainly through the BBS, thus limiting the touched market. In an attempt to reach the people who did not have network access, Nelson Ford, a journalist for an American computer magazine, created PSL - the Public Software Library, and began distributing shareware on floppy disks. At the same time, the first shareware-related magazine came to be: The PSL news. Nelson Ford was the target of much criticism at the beginning, as many authors did not agree with distributing free software at a price. The price, however, was clearly to cover the operating expenses of PSL, and in the long run, largely benefited the shareware authors by increasing program popularity. Time passed, and shareware authors eventually accepted and understood the distribution method introduced by Ford. Interest in such distribution increased and authors began to voluntarily send their software to Ford and other similar organizations.

The shareware market matures

In order to protect the shareware authors, the ASP - Association of Shareware Professionals - was created in 1985. ASP was formed by Nelson Ford, the first developers (Bob Wallace, Tom Smith, Jim Knopf...),salesmen (PC-SIG and Public Brand) and various BBS SYSOPS. The first president of ASP was also one of the first shareware fathers: Jim Knopf.
ASP played an essential role in the evolution of shareware by ensuring its longevity through a set of rules and morals that were to be respected by the various parties involved in shareware (respect the user, the authors, etc.)

Recent evolutions in shareware

Whereas the early years of shareware saw office applications such as PC-Write, the 1990's saw the success of games and general utilities. The success of shareware video games is due to an innovative marketing method that was launched by Scott Miller of d'Apogee Software. His method consisted of distributing only the first levels of the game in the public version, and forced users to pay a fee in order get the full game.
Historical successes such as Doom, Duke Nukem, and Quake were thus born.

Today, Internet allows shareware's author to distribute their software toward the all planet, and some organizations creation in goal of promote the shareware.

How it works

- An author creates software and distributes it through the Internet and/or other networks.

- Any user can then test the software for a set period of time, deciding whether or not it meets the user's needs.

- If the time period expires but the user still requires the program, he/she must then send a sum to the author (the amound is set in the program documentation).

- Once the programmer recieves the funds, the user is sent a version of the program that has more options, is not crippled, contains a printed manual, or other advantages.

Advantages for the user :

- The user can test the software before buying it, thus taking the risk out of the purchase.

- Usually, shareware programs cost less then their commercial counterparts.

- Users can communicate easily with the author, allowing for great technical support and feedback.

Advantages to the author :

- The author recieves the opinions of the users quickly and directly, allowing a user/programmer relationship not possibile with commericial software.

- Unlike the freeware method, the source of the software is under complete control of the author, making it possible for the author to decide the program's future.

- eleasing your programs as shareware is a perfect way to establish a name for yourself. Many successful programmers have shareware-roots.

- The shareware form of distribution does not require any particular legal status, allowing novice programmers and underaged individuals to distribute thier work worry-free.

- Through relations with registered users of the author's software, the author is usually regarded as a beneficial and helpful part of the community. This reputation allows for excellent promotion of the author's software through word-of-mouth.

- Successful shareware programs often gain the respect of large, established software publishers and could possibly lead to future employment and/or other benefits.