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

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Paul Keith:
See the difference?

I walked away very much liking these people because they were refreshingly honest about why they were offering a no-charge version of their product in return for my consideration of making a purchase, providing them with my feedback and suggestions, and helping them with word of mouth advertising.

Notice how they actually asked for a lot more than just money, but still managed not to be offensive or appear manipulative?

Contrast that with the occasional self-righteous and slightly hurt tone some developers adopt to shame somebody into paying for something they were told was supposed to be free.

If you want to get paid - say so. And require it.

If you're offering something at no charge - say so. And be up front about why.

You'll discover people will respect you for that (and possibly go along with what you want) far more readily than they'll allow you to shame or otherwise coerce them into doing something.

It's a simple matter of being honest.

Always the best policy with yourself and others.
--- End quote ---

I think the problem with this assumption is that it can't be a marketing strategy when in reality it can.

Marketing basically means doing everything that works so yeah, you'll get one or two or maybe even a hundred who'll be honest but for every hundred who have success, the next few hundred will be faking it just to get that success.

Meanwhile it's history repeating all over again. The more people do this, the more people tune out. Eventually people become cynical of the method and you're back to the start.

Copying is not cheap alone as far as mimicking design, most people who aim to profit often profit because they mimick good will too. In life, the sociopath err...rather the social engineer has the most incentive to maximize the effects of good will via faking it.

It hasn't happened to software in such a drastic manner but again look at how maintained even means. Maintain and nursed could mean "until I'm satisfied even though I'm not going to listen to other users' demands until another product actually proves me wrong" or it could mean "go open source abandonware" or it could mean "maintained as in eventually when I one day put the program on hiatus - you'll move on and I'll move on and unless my freeware is popular no one in the future will have an easy time finding it because I'm only maintaining and nursing the software, not the elements surrounding the software"

Frankly I'm much more scared about this vibe that marketing and monetization are the same. You're never going to maximize usability if you're not into marketing or not trying to maximize marketing and it has screwed many software users/software developers from the likes of Opera to such small applications that are one of a kind like NANY Tree List.

Even here in DC, mouser's not a stranger to marketing donationware and yet it takes a member posting a complaint about DC's homepage lay-out to get the ball rolling on a discussion about the frontpage even though I remember DC's lay-out being that way for so long, it's almost a classic look.

This is why Linux Mint's tagline get to me: "From Freedom came Elegance"

There may be a risk of looking too much into the difference of freeware and instead of finding success, we find how the open source community became full of elitists.

On the flipside, if I have to guess, elite dedicated freeware authors have some of the best times with programming things as they are able to see the fruits of their labor maximized to the best of their ideas. It's probably like the feeling you get when you've been around the world or climbed Mt. Everest or been to the moon.

Lesser freeware authors may work on micro-apps and tried monetizing it but you've actually made a software where people want to pay you for something you are offering for free because it's beyond kickass.


The only tiny quibble i might have is the advice to stop calling software offered for a motive "freeware". There are very heated debates about the term freeware, and my general feeling is that motivation is not a good way to determine whether something is freeware or not.  My personal view is that it really comes down to whether you are offering something fully functional that can be used permanently without "punishment", financial cost, or undue annoyance, like being forced to endure ads or similar unwanted things).
-mouser (February 14, 2011, 07:58 AM)
--- End quote ---

I see your point. Much of my feelings and beliefs date back to when there were basicslly three types of software: commercial, shareware, and freeware.

Back then, the term freeware was unambiguous. It was free. Period. End of script.

Over the years, the term got co-opted and polluted by various word games so that today it's become largely meaningless. Much like the word "green" when referring to environmentally friendly.

So if I come across as being a dilettante with my somewhat narrow and precise definition of freeware, I apologize. Chalk it up to someone who's become increasingly angered by the (largely successful) attempts to poison the free/open software movement's well by a conscious effort to make its terms and definitions meaningless.

My thought was it's one thing for money interests to be muddying the waters. (Pigs prefer mud anyway.) But as programmers, computer professionals, and technology enthusiasts, we here at DC didn't need to allow ourselves to get sucked into that game.

Again, just my 2ยข. (Which must be getting up to a dime by now on this topic.  ;D)

Paul Keith:
Oh darn, I'm probably going to anger lots of you here but to hell with it: I'm feeling talkative.

Back then, wasn't freeware perceived as crapware?

...and before you guys think this is off-topic or deliberately flammatory, I think it's worth looking at it through those lenses because one could say freeware has evolved a long way and thus it brings up the concept of success as not just being a situational criteria but a generational one too.

It seems like there's a tone in this thread that if you try to write software and give it away for free but still make some money somewhere along the line, then you're doing something wrong or scummy.
-Renegade (February 14, 2011, 07:59 AM)
--- End quote ---

Not AFAIC. Freeware (by my definition) is either motivated by utter altruism or it's somebody's hobby.

I've got nothing against anybody for wanting (or more likely needing) to make money off their work. I'm a network integrator/troubleshooter. I make my coin by knowing something my client doesn't - and not telling them what I know for free. Far be it from me to criticize the person who spent 200+ hours of his or her life creating a piece of software with the hopes it would return something for their efforts.

But by the same token, I don't do my thing without making it very clear up front that I don't (ok, more like can't) provide my services at no charge. If I offered to do something "for free," and then started dropping hints I expected something after the fact, the person I was dealing with would likely feel I was being less than honest with them.

Why should software be any different?

So what about "get acquainted" service offers or working "on spec"?

Nobody in their right mind that works in my profession offers either. It's the sign of an amateur. Or somebody who's so desperate they're no longer thinking about what it takes to run a business. And it also gets the relationship off on the wrong foot by introducing a logical inconsistency into the marketing of the service.

If something is free today, why should it cost something tomorrow? And even though it may sound illogical, that question WILL come up sooner or later. Usually right after you bill for anything you ever once did for free.

Now, do I ever provide my services for free?

Yes. At Linux install fests, helping seniors to use computer technology at our local Senior Center, donating time and equipment to worthy causes, offering career and technology mentoring to school kids, participating in forums and tech discussions, helping friends and family cope with their computer short, you can get me "for free" in many places...

Just not where I work.

I still think they key is being honest with your users.

There are many ways to make and share and give away (or market and sell) software or services, and lots of different motivations, and lots of different paths that people can take.

If you are up front with your users/customers/friends about what you are doing and why, so that they don't feel tricked, then you are doing fine, whatever path you take.


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