May 26, 1999
WHEN I WAS a kid, I used to subscribe to shareware. Every month two disks packed with programs would land in my mailbox (postal mail!) and I would begin to explore new software; games, pictures, utilities, word processors… it didn’t really matter what it was, because it was free! Well, postage and packing brought my costs up to about two dollars a month
Of course, shareware isn’t really free. If it’s free it’s called freeware. Shareware means that I can use the software a specified length of time or number of times and then pay a license fee if I like it and wish to continue using it. Back when I was a kid, though, shareware didn’t have the time-locks that you see today
Since the Net became a buzzword, the concept of shareware and freeware really took off! My first HTML-editor, Arachnophilia, was careware (all you have to do is care) and I still use it from time to time. The FTP-program I use today is freeware. The image editor I still use was once shareware but its now so good it’s gone commercial. Paint Shop Pro is competing with the best of image editors but is still only a fraction of the cost of any of the others. Today, also, there are no postage and packing fees; all I have to do is download my free software and start using it. And I don’t have to wait a month for my order to come through.
TODAY, IT’S NOT just software. I can listen to music for free on the Net, I can dowload literature, images, films and I can get free storage space for web pages or documents. It’s like people can’t wait to give away stuff that they have worked hours, months or years to complete. And I’m just sitting here on the receiving end, enjoying every minute.
The funny thing is that shareware and freeware is often a lot better than commercial products performing the same tasks. This is a clipping from Webmonkey’s definition of shareware: ”Shareware, sans fancy packaging or middleman, is usually ridiculously cheap – US$10 or $20 – which is amazing considering it is often superior to store-bought goods (since you’re downloading the latest, least-buggy release). An even better deal is freeware, which is, well, free.”
SO WHY DO they do it? Why do they want to give away stuff for free? And now I’m talking about freeware, the programs I get for free and can use for an unlimited period of time. Programs like Arachnophilia which just keep getting better. Programs that in many ways are better than many commercial programs!
Well, perhaps its the only way to compete with the big guys: Microsoft, Adobe, Macromedia, etc. Or maybe they just don’t care. Hackers aged fifteen just like seeing their programs being used. What’s important, more and more people are discovering the high quality of freeware and it seems to me that more and more freeware is constantly appearing on the Net. Heck, the latest high-tech operating system, Linux, is freeware! And that’s something that really is a wart in Microsoft’s butt. Which makes you wonder if Linux is popular because it’s good, or because Microsoft dislikes it
Any which way, diving into the world of freeware can really be a blast. There are so many fun and useful programs out there that are yours for the taking. But beware, get them while they’re free. If they really start picking up in popularity, chances are somebody is going to start charging money for ‘em. And hey, if it’s shareware and you keep using it… pay for it.