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The term "Freeware" - is it always applicable today??

#1 User is offline James (Jim) Hillier

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    Posted 16 November 2010 - 02:23 AM

    ?Freeware? is obviously a portmanteau of the words FREE and SOFTWARE and has been used liberally for many years now to categorize products. Yet there is actually quite a difference between ?Freeware? and ?Free Software?:

    Freeware is computer software that is available to users at no cost and is almost always proprietary and closed source. Which means it is not available for modification nor redistribution. Plus, licensing may also impose restrictions on the types of usage permitted.

    Free software, on the other hand, can be freely used, modified, and redistributed with just one proviso; that any redistribution remains faithful to the original terms of the ?free use? agreement.

    ?Free software? epitomizes the notion of freedom of use, whereas ?Freeware? that of free-of-charge. So, even though the label ?Freeware? is actually a shortening of the term ?Free Software?, the two are fundamentally dissimilar.

    I have some serious reservations about the continuing use of the term ?Freeware? to describe certain products. Take, for example, the myriad of developers/publishers who offer a Premium (or commercial version) of their software as well as the so-called Freeware. In almost every case, when compared to the commercial versions, the Freeware is restricted in some way; often characterized by providing less features/options and inferior efficacy.

    Technically, these products do fall within the parameters of the official ?Freeware? definition but I can?t help thinking that something like ?Crippleware? or ?Limitware? might be a more appropriate label.

    Then we have those numerous products, in the same boat, which also include a pop-up or nag screen exhorting users to part with their hard-earned and upgrade to the superior Premium version. Perhaps we could call that ?Cripple/nagware??

    Conversely, I disagree with those editors, bloggers and reviewers who employ the term ?Donationware? when referring to Freeware where the developer asks for donations.. Those requests are invariably posed on a purely voluntary basis and I can see no harm in developers, who require financial assistance to help maintain development of their freeware, asking? In my opinion, labeling their products ?Donationware? is a tad harsh.

    One of my pet peeves when searching around the net for freeware to perform a particular function is the liberal use of the terms ?Free to download? and "Download for free". How many of you have fallen for that one only to discover, post installation, that you do indeed need to pay in order to actually use/activate the software? Again, strictly speaking, the terminology is technically accurate but it can be (and often is) very misleading. I?m somewhat surprised that none of the business ethics nor advertising watchdogs have cottoned on to that one.

    Maybe it?s time to re-define what should actually constitute ?Freeware?.

    Freeware: Full, unlimited, unrestricted computer software available free of any charges or subscriptions, including all updates.

    How does that sound? It would certainly reduce the ?Freeware? category numbers dramatically.

    What do you think?

    Cheers?.Jim
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    #2 User is online marko

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      Posted 16 November 2010 - 07:31 AM

      Great topic Jim, and as most regulars on the site will know FreewareBB was actually born from the very frustrations you mention about those "free downloads" that don't ring true - I myself would search online for certain "free" software only to find after installation it was anything but free!.

      There has always been debate about the term 'freeware' and how it's been diluted over the years, and I have to agree 100%. Open Source, for example, is often referred to as true freeware whereas anything that doesn't allow you to edit the source code isn't, but the way I see it is if it's released free of charge then it falls within the boundries of what I now refer to as freeware. When developers start charging for what was previously 'free' we remove those listings as I don't want the site to be just another one of those 'free download' sites that mislead people and I think this is what seperates us from the rest.

      That said, there will always be people out there all too willing to pass on downloads to the public as whatever the latest craze is or whatever ranks highest in the search engines and so it is those people who are partly responsible for the confusion in all of this, in other words they will masquerade anything as anything if it sells or helps their websites and have no concern over the true meaning of the words.

      For me, if a download is free, useful and does exactly what it says on the tin then there is no harm in classing it as freeware, otherwise it probably falls into one of the other many categories such as trialware, shareware, demo, etc :)

      Cheers
      Marko
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      #3 User is offline James (Jim) Hillier

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        Posted 16 November 2010 - 05:32 PM

        Quote

        For me, if a download is free, useful and does exactly what it says on the tin then there is no harm in classing it as freeware,

        Yes Marko, I do actually agree in principle. I am, to a certain extent, playing devil's advocate. :)

        Quote

        There has always been debate about the term 'freeware' and how it's been diluted over the years, and I have to agree 100%

        Yes, I think that's the most salient point Marko, how the true meaning has indeed been diluted. The vast majority of developers (and I'm talking major players here) who are producing Freeware are not doing so as a community service, out of the goodness of their hearts. I think it's fair to say their incentives are more commercially orientated. In most cases, it is more of a marketing/advertising ploy than anything else; to get their product name out there and promote sales of the more advanced commercial versions. When you think about it; once the commercial product has been fully developed and is ready for sale, producing a cut-down free version would involve very little work and even less cost. So the so-called Freeware would actually provide:
        1) An avenue for very cheap advertising....practically zero cost.
        2) Plus a reliable and steady source of additional income (via the upgrade options).

        I am not necessarily saying that is a bad thing, but it is, in my opinion, indicative that (largely) the original 'spirit' and motivations behind Freeware have changed dramatically. Whether or not that diminishes the legitimacy of labeling those products 'Freeware' is open for debate.

        Cheers mate....Jim
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