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Fairware: an interesting experiment in getting paid for Open Source

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I did not try the software, but from the description it does not seem an attractive model to me, because:
* The software needs connection to the internet to check, whether the project is fully paid for or if there still are unpaid hours to show or not show the nag screen.
* As a donator, even if you paid a large amount, you still experience the nag screen if the project is not fully paid or if the developer throws in additional hours. Maybe I am wrong here and there is a mechanism in place that checks if you have paid enough to not show you the nag screen, but how much is enough (sounds like a fixed price)? Someone likely ends up repeatedly paying for almost all of the work, because they cannot stand the nag screen. Paid software at least tries to equalize the cost for all users (btw if someone managed to find an even more fair way - paying according the benefits the software brings - and keep the system simple and scalable, they would make a fortune).
* Some groups of users do not care how many hours were invested in the past, or do not care about donating at all.
* Creating the tracking system and entering every task into it is an additional work most freeware developers do not enjoy (I hate reporting).

Also, I agree with almost everything, 40hz said. Freeware cannot survive indefinitely without a way for the developer to break even.

Mouser and many others here do it right by creating lots of small single-purpose utilities for the right kind of audience. They are not so big investments and over the years, the donations have a chance to cover the expenses.

For larger projects, only few managed to bring in millions (like Firefox via google ads on its home page). Yet another way is to let someone with business interests sponsor your project. Is is really "freeware" in that case?

For other projects (mid-size without a sponsor), I fear there are only 2 ways: slowly die due to lost interest or become a paid software. Not sure, which one is worse.

I am going on a bit of a tangent but something vlastimil said reminds me of an annoyance or gripe I have. Freeware that goes shareware. To me a person who starts a serious project should expect to put a lot of hours in it, actually the success of the product or license has nothing to do with it. What I am saying is that if you decide to go freeware when you are at 0.1 alpha doesn't mean less hours are needed to reach 1.0.
Fairware is not all that different from donationware, we have all seen one workable implementation. It has the potential to work in this modified way.

Hi there, the author speaking. I found this thread through my web server logs, and I love to discuss about fairware, can I jump in?

I'd like to address some points which, I humbly think, are misunderstandings.

1. Nag screen & internet connection

When you contribute any amount (minimum 5$ though), you receive a registration key allowing you to remove the nag and the internet check even if not all hours have been compensated for the project. The thought behind this is: you did your part, no need to nag you anymore.

The internet connection isn't required to use fairware programs for non-contributors (and of course, for contributors too). If you're not connected, the program assumes 0 hours and thus doesn't show a nag.

Of course, a smartass can simply disable his internet connection before launching a fairware app and never be nagged, but I figure that if you're gonna give yourself the trouble to do that, you're never gonna contribute anyway, so go ahead :)

2. Users won't contribute unless they're forced to

I used to think so and I even explain why in an article introducing a previous pseudo-open-source effort two years ago (fairware is one year old). The article is at

However, I revisited the argument in the fairware introductory article from last year ( ) and I made the hypothesis that rather than being greedy, the user is rather lazy. By making the "do I contribute?" decision easy to take, I think fairware makes the fair user (there's nothing to do about unfair users, so we might as well let them be and ignore them) more likely to contribute. I also think that there's enough fair users out there to fund a development effort.

The nag screen is annoying and is a good incentive to contribute (Isn't it what Winzip, despite being closed source, used back in its glory days?). Of course, since it's open source, someone can  always maintain a nagless fork out of spite, but such thing requires efforts, so I think such an possibility is unlikely.

3. Not gonna work

The thing is that fairware has been running for a year and it kinda works ( ). The problem is that I can't unequivocally show it because only one of my 3 apps, dupeGuru, really works, contribution-wise.

moneyGuru never worked, even when it was closed source, so the problem isn't the fairware model. In fact, the money I received monthly for it when it was closed source was close to what I get now, in "fairware mode", that is a mere 200$.

My 3rd app, PdfMasher, is spanking new and not known yet, so the contributions don't compensate my development investment yet, but I think it might. Current users find it really cool. Monthly contributions are low, but the progression is encouraging.

dupeGuru, however, is a success. It was already a success when it was closed source, and it stayed that way as fairware. The only problem is that I don't pour enough hours in it, so it's really rare that there's hours to compensate, which means that the nag screen never shows up for anyone.

But when I pour hours in, the money comes in quite fast. For example, I uploaded a backlog of about 10 hours (350$ worth) 36 hours ago, and it's all paid now. Even for closed source, 350$ in 36 hours for a single developer app ain't bad. Over the past year, dupeGuru only got 12,000$ of contributions, which isn't so great (but, I think, better than most donation-based open source projects), but that's because I didn't work on it much. I'm confident that if I invested more hours in it, they'd be paid.

What's even cooler is that dupeGuru is much more popular since it's open source because it's mentioned it tons of blogs, which wasn't the case before. That must make my closed source competitors sad :)


I think I addressed all criticisms from the messages that have been posted yet, I hope I didn't miss any. That being said, I don't claim that fairware is without flaws, so if you want to continue the discussion, I'd be glad to do so as well.

EDIT: typo

Hi there, the author speaking. I found this thread through my web server logs, and I love to discuss about fairware, can I jump in?-hsoft (September 10, 2011, 08:11 AM)
--- End quote ---

Hi there hsoft, welcome to the site, and welcome to the discussion :up:

Hi hsoft and welcome to the site. Seems we have some common thoughts here with regards to getting users to voluntarily contribute to supporting the software they use.

We have our own One Year Report that you may find interesting.

And some of our larger software projects take a similar approach with encouraging users to donate, by way of temporary licenses that require the user to come back to the site every 6 months, or a donation of any amount granting the user a non-expiring license for any and all of our software.

And many thought our approach wouldn't work, and we have had our own share of criticisms, but it has been 6 years and we are still here and growing.


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