Software vs. Shareware

by Michael E. Callahan aka Dr. File Finder

This question submitted by Bobby Sampson, Mary Wilson, Jack Watson, Debbie Panera, Wendy Braun, and numerous others

I've gotten all kinds of emails asking about the difference between "shareware" and "software". I can see by reading these emails that there is serious confusion about the two terms. I'm hoping that I can clear up that confusion today.

"Software" is a name given to computer programs and differentiate it from computer hardware. Software is compiled code that helps the computer to perform specific tasks. The operating system, like Windows or Linux, is system software that tells the computer how to behave in general. Application software would include things like tex editors, word processors, spreadsheets, and lots more. Without software your computer would be slightly less useful than your toaster.

Software is created using higher level languages like C++, Visual Studio, Delphi, and others. In the early days of programming many programmers used assembly language which created programs that were very small and fast. Application software interacts with your system software and in many cases creates data.

"Shareware" is a marketing method for selling software. This method was devised in early by three men: Andrew Fleugelman, Jim Button, and Bob Wallace. At that time each of them called the concept something else, but Bob Wallace was the one who coined the term shareware. The basic premise of shareware is that the user can "try before they buy." True shareware lets you evaluate the product for a period of time, usually without restrictions. After the evaluation period is up you either buy the software or you remove it from your computer.

The "shareware" marketing model has become so popular that in todays software market nearly all "software" companies utilize the "shareware" marketing model, though most don't refer to it as such. You can even look around and see other products that are using the "try before you buy" marketing model. For example, I saw a commercial for a piece of exercise equipment where you could pay $ to have it sent to your house for days. If, at the end of that time, you haven't returned it, you continue to pay for it. Very similar to shareware.

The key thing to remember is that shareware is not a special kind of software. It's simply software that's sold using the "try before you buy" marketing model. Today this model is used by most companies. At the Shareware Industry Awards, Microsoft, Adobe, Corel, and Google all won awards. So, the face of "shareware" is changing.

From www.tucows.com