Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about freeware which is available gratis. For free software as defined by the Free Software Foundation, see Free software.
Freeware is computer software which is made available gratis/free of charge. Typically freeware is proprietary; distributed without source code. It usually carries a license that permits redistribution but may have other restrictions, such as limitations on its commercial use. For example, a license might allow the software to be freely copied, but not sold, or might forbid use by government agencies or armed forces.
The term was coined by Andrew Fluegelman when he wanted to distribute a communications program named PC-Talk that he had created but for which he did not wish to use traditional methods of distribution because of their cost. Previously, he held a trademark on the term "freeware" but this trademark has since been abandoned. He actually distributed PC-Talk via what is now referred to as shareware.
Commercial vendors often release freeware as a loss leader to attract customers to other services or products available for a fee. Others release freeware because other methods of distribution are unlikely to make a profit or because the software is outdated and is no longer worth selling.
There are many variations on the freeware model. Freeware is an umbrella term which includes:
- Adware. Adware is distributed as freeware, but it requires the user to view advertisements to use the software. Many cases of spyware have been adware.
- Donationware. The authors of donationware ask that anyone using their software make a donation to the authors or to some third party such as a charity. Because the donation is optional, donationware may also be freeware or fall into some other category.
- Public domain software. Software in the public domain has no copyright and therefore may be distributed without charge. Freeware is usually copyrighted and its license may restrict certain activities.
- Abandonware. Abandonware is commercial software that has not been sold for a long time or whose copyright holder is defunct; it has been "abandoned". The licenses of most such software forbid redistribution or require payment, so distributing it violates the author's copyright (even if the author does not or cannot enforce it). "Legal abandonware" is a misnomer for commercial software that has been re-released by the copyright holder as freeware.
- Postcardware. The software is essentially freeware, however the author requests that you send a post card expressing thanks and providing feedback.
- Baitware. Very limited or defective freeware software, released to deceptively attract users and drive them to commercial products.
Developers or distributors occasionally invent neologisms, such as "muffinware", describing the type of donation they'd like to receive in return for the product.
There are other forms of distribution that allow a user to receive the software at no cost, but are generally not considered freeware. These include:
- Free software and open-source software. The word "free" in "free software" refers to freedom, not price; specifically, it refers to software whose license terms permit its use, modification and redistribution, with or without charge. The word "free" in "freeware" refers only to price. The word "gratisware" as a synonym for "freeware" makes this distinction clearer, but is not in common use.
- Crippleware, Shareware. Shareware is distributed similarly to freeware except that it requires payment after some trial period or for more features (the "full version"), in the case of crippleware.
- The History of Shareware by Michael E. Callahan
- GNU's declaration that "freeware" is not the same as "free software"
- Making Sense of Freeware, Open Source, and Shareware
- Andrew Fluegleman: In Memoriam by Kevin Strehlo
- Paul Lutus: CareWare concept
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