ATTENTION: You are viewing a page formatted for mobile devices; to view the full web page, click HERE.

Main Area and Open Discussion > General Software Discussion

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

<< < (3/14) > >>

Thanks for the reactions! Money was mentioned a lot. Freeware or not, it seems to play an important role.

Kip, you have a great number of tools on your web, some of them completely unique. With the number of downloads you have, I would expect at least some donations. It could be due to the web. It feels a bit impersonal - visitors may have hard time seeing a human behind. What if you integrated for example facebook comments on your pages? It would give the users a way to communicate with each other, there is power in the social network  ;).

Renegade, I am in similar position as you, having some paid and some free software. I guess the free tools have impact on the paid tools, but how can we measure this? And should we?

I started this topic, because I did not know how to "measure" the success of free tools. I am inclined to consider a popular freeware a success regardless of the direct financial compensation for the author. BTW is there a guide how to make successful (popular) (profitable) freeware?

What are the core ingredients of success (in freeware)? Is is the niche? The typical users? The programming skills? The marketing skills?

Regarding donations, I think it's been really well established that:

* It is very hard to get people to donate for software in even the best of circumstances.
* If you want donations you have to make a very big effort to let people know that they are important to you -- a simple button will not do it -- you have to really make clear that they are a critical part of your work.
* I hope these things change as we move forward -- I think that they will once we get some big players addressing the obstacles to micro donations.
My points are not meant to discourage anyone from asking for donations -- in fact quite the contrary -- I think we are all better off if we team up and champion the idea of donating to support free software.  Just be prepared for a long hard slog if you are trying to raise money through donations for your software, and most importantly, don't get discouraged if people don't donate -- it's not that they don't love your software it's just that the culture hasn't yet caught up to the idea that people should contribute financially if they aren't forced to.

I think software users have a lot of misconceptions about software development.  In the way they think Ben Casey will do neurosurgery on you for free if you can't afford it, and a couple of college kids start a search site in their spare time and become billionaires, they think we have bucks to set up all these machines to test software on various combinations of machine, OS, etc..

And of course we are up on the internet putting this stuff out so there must be something in it to be had.

For the one person programmer I think people are most likely to donate or pay for software if the program facilitates getting other stuff for free.  Binary newsreaders come to mind.  Video converters etc..

Even something like BD Rebuilder that has obvious benefits, the author has to periodically harangue the faithful for more contributions.  At this point when I get a stray donation I just consider it a nice gesture from an individual who liked one of my programs. It's not going to make a dent in my expenses.  The cost of filing the annual report for my LLC is more than the sum of individual donations for the year.  I'm obviously not gonna' be buying new convertibles any time soon.

But "on internet = rich in 6 months" seems to be the myth that's aggressively promoted.  Why I have no clue.

Paul Keith:
But "on internet = rich in 6 months" seems to be the myth that's aggressively promoted.  Why I have no clue.
--- End quote ---

Oh come on. Spam and web marketing doesn't induce blindness.  :P

Seriously though, from the outside looking in, it's not fair to say donationware is either hard or easy.

The reality is, just like software design, few freeware programmers are willing to take the risk to develop a cashcow.

Take the OneNote interface. It's nothing special. However it took ages before anyone would seriously consider that interface.

Therefore design-wise, most freeware lack the bang to attract paying customers.

But then let's consider everything else. Just like forums and blogs need good image synchronization in order for people to pay attention (something I still have a hard time doing) we know videos/blogs/community are at least a bare bones element of what should attract donations but how many actually have that?

I think the bar for verifying donationware has to be something like Evernote did. Sure, it's not a small company but let's look at everything they did correctly and tell me most freeware programmers do this:

Pander to the more profitable crowd - I mean this is generally bad and yeah you don't want to listen too much to your users but Evernote did the opposite and they not only didn't listen to their existing customer base, they angered them with version 3

Create a brand - Basic marketing but how many freeware programmers settle for just having blogs that are basically changelogs with the occassional update? Contrast this with web services like Ning/Remember the Milk/Evernote blog hell... DonationCoder's blog and it's not even close. Most program download sites look like abandonware except for the occassional update.

Create a demand - How many freeware programmers tell their communities to try using their software in novel ways? For every NANY there's a billion freeware that only becomes advertised through blogs like Lifehacker and Mashable and Techcrunch and that's their high point where as for successful freemium products that's just the definition of a successful launch.

Make it easy - How many have a DonationCredit system like DC? Over here, I'm not a programmer and I'm just writing articles and someone would go ahead and send DonationCredits and it often makes me feel bad that I'm just sharing an article and not really being a developer. Unless every notable freeware has a micro-system there's no metric to talk about.

The reality is, even for non-software less-rewarding one day/one week only Campaigns to raise awareness for a Cause, it's trial and error. There's no theory except to learn from a failed campaign and being less gun-shy about promoting a campaign. Yet almost all those individual campaign makers probably did a lot more to generate interest in donations than freeware developers. Hell...than professional software developers.

But it's also why freeware's success can't be determined in money. Yes, that's a huge proof of success but most freeware developers have to have the mindset coming into their software development stage to make users want to pay for their software. The paradox however is that if most of them think like that, there'd be more adware and less freeware. As much as it would make sense that it would be nice for people to put food on your table - first people from both sides have to understand what putting food on the table means. For every good will, there's an incentive to shell out that good will. Even for successful large projects like Linux distributions - donations only come because Open Source is sold as a cause and not just software and it was helped by many individual evolutions from Torvalds to Stallman to Web Access to better evolving interface (while the program keeps it's name).

In short, freeware does not need to be a business to be successful at gathering donations. It just needs to be an advocacy.

Coincidentally, I learned about a possible solution for micro-donations - bitcoin ( ). It is an attempt to create a virtual currency, something I have been thinking about for years, but never really started to work on it. While I feel that bitcoin has some drawbacks, it also has potential. The idea of eliminating the middle man (banks) and hence not needing to trust anyone is powerful.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

[*] Previous page

Go to full version