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What does it mean when I say "successful freeware"?

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In my opinion, these are some the signs of a successful freeware (in no particular order):
1. If you show it to people, they will keep using it.
2. People will recommend it to their friends with similar interests.
3. There are independent blog posts about your software.
4. People are recommending your software on forums/facebook/twitter/...
5. People are requesting new features.
6. You already have plans for next version.
7. You get a good spot on Google for relevant keywords.
8. People are offering help/sending donations.
9. People are making tools that complement/extend your software.
10. You are surprised, what people are using your tool for.

I would like to know which of your freeware projects are you considering the most successful and why. And what lessons have you learned coding/extending/supporting the free software?

Why are any of those comments restricted to "freeware" except 8?

Why are any of those comments restricted to "freeware" except 8?
-timns (February 12, 2011, 03:21 PM)
--- End quote ---

Good point. I guess in case of commercial software, the success is usually measured by the number of sold copies. For freeware I was forced to look for other metrics.

Does 8 include corporate sponsorship? I think my freeware would feel way more successful if somebody gave me a $20,000/year stipend and paid my filing and online fees. ;)

Paul Keith:
It means the brand name is not popular enough that you need to add "successful freeware" besides it so that people will pay attention.  :P

For me the most successful software are commercially backed freeware like Virtualbox, Firefox, Chrome and OpenOffice.

However if we're describing smaller scale, the most successful software are ones that could be marketed as the best kept secrets of the internet to people who know very little about them and have a dedicated loyal community firmly behind it that few people know about.

Said freeware include software such as:

Opera 10.10 (anecdote) - I just read from the Opera forums that this was the latest stable version. Opera is a constant leader in browser security and unlike other browsers like Chrome who pretend to be lightweight but can't support as much tabs without crashing - Opera's main weaknesses are that they don't improve as much on their native browser features and would rather focus on extra features like mail client, widgets, etc. They also don't like interface harmony like being able to right click on bookmarks and would instead prefer to change hotkeys veterans are used to. Nonetheless they are the leader in the desktop as far as a browser that can have lots of tabs opened.

Revo Uninstaller - Where other uninstallers aimed to be more lightweight, Revo not only assumed users would want an uninstaller that would actually "remove" software (go figure) but their website is a testament on how to do both b2b and b2c right as far as creating a professional website that doesn't confuse the hell out of it's users and the way they "inconspicuously" pop-up and advertise their pro versions is another underrated hallmark of a freeware service that clearly deserves it's success because the developers have in mind the desire to sell to their users without sacrificing their service. - Successful freeware are like leaders. They define an industry. Though not very well known, little syphir was so influential in refining gmail that not soon after big daddy Google released the Priority Inbox.

Soluto - Successful software is not always about getting the most marketshare or the most hype but delivering the best bang for the buck. In that category, Soluto is among those that not only understands how to make a professional looking and beautiful freeware - they managed to think big enough that when their tag-line for their freeware says "Anti-Frustration Software" and you become skeptical - all that evaporates after you've restarted your PC and witnessed their freeware take action.

Everything and DocFetcher - Sometimes success isn't about kicking ass in the freeware department but kicking ass in the professional department. Both of these desktop search engines could easily have gained more press if they were paid software with fancy schmancy marketing and design but instead they chose the KISS method and instead of being all negative and interpreting the last S as stupid. They ignored it and might as well have renamed it the Keep It Super Simple method because these two software knows how to get one powerful thing done in a clear and concise method.

Extreme Warfare Revenge - It's one thing to talk about kicking professional software' ass but professional games?! EWR was so bad-ass that when it's creator decided to create a professional game - most of the EWR community criticized it's features because it was just that good of a freeware. Not only that, the WWE/THQ couldn't match up it's GM mode with this freeware's depth that they instead mostly focused on improving their cinematic story/career mode because they clearly could not touch the success of this game despite their budget.

These aren't the only ones out there but I consider these examples as among the hallmarks of "the most successful" because it's one thing to be the top of the mountain because you've got a design budget or a marketing team behind you or a bunch of fans who like your application - it's another different thing to provide "one of a kind" freeware while being the underdog or the lesser knowns. (Kinda like the difference between buried treasure and expensive diamonds on a famous shop only the treasure is so kickass awesome, even if the store offered the diamonds for free, the treasure would have more value and the only reason it couldn't be considered just as big a success is because it's buried under a world full of advertisements)

Oh and the lesson I learned was: Content may be king but marketing is queen and just because we live in a world of geniuses, doesn't mean geniuses can't be pawns to the Corporate Popes err... bishops  :(


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