What is Shareware?

By: Dan Housley

What is Shareware?

Shareware is software that you can try before you buy; shareware is a kind of marketing method for software. Software developers post trial versions of their software on websites. Consumers can then download the trial version to their computer and evaluate it. If the consumer likes the software they can purchase it. Shareware is also called try before you buy.

Today almost every big software company including Microsoft, Winzip, and AOL use trial versions or a form of shareware to market their software.

Why is shareware better than any other marketing method?

Shareware is a good way to market software. It allows consumers to evaluate an application prior to making a purchase decision. They can easily determine if it meets their business or personal needs, which usually results to a satisfied customer. In addition because shareware companies are often small they can provide personalized service that is not found in larger companies. Shareware also allows for instant gratification, there is no need to wait for a shipment. Consumers can download and use the software immediately.

Freeware vs. Shareware.

As you know shareware is a marketing method for software. Freeware is also a way of marketing software. However, freeware is free so the developer does not ever request any money. Shareware is free to distribute but cannot be used for an unlimited amount of time, unless the developer is paid. Freeware can be used an unlimited amount of time and can be freely distributed; payment is not required.

Many developers use freeware to draw attention to their shareware applications.

What is software piracy?

There are several kinds of software piracy. One kind of software piracy is hacking into software and disabling the copy protection. Software pirates then distribute or sell the hacked software. The developer does not receive any money for the software the hacker distributed. This is an infringement on the developer's copyright.

Another technique used by hackers is to illegally obtain a registered copy of software. Pirates purchase the software once and use it on multiple computers. Purchasing software with a stolen credit card is another form of software piracy. Unfortunately there are many kinds of software piracy that has slowed the industry's growth. In order for developers to continue to develop software and provide support the software needs to be profitable.

Registration Incentives.

A registration incentive is something that makes the person using the shareware version of the software want to buy. There are a number of incentives developers use to encourage users to buy. One popular registration incentive is to limit the time of the trial version. This is clever because then the user can't use the shareware version forever. It encourages them to buy the software so they can continue to use it when the trial period is over.

Often shareware versions will have "grayed out" features on the menu that the consumer can see, but not use. Typically there is a pop-up windows in the software encouraging users to register in order to take advantage of the additional features. This is a popular registration method because if the person wants to do more things with the program, then they are forced to buy the registered version of the software.

Another innovative registration incentive shareware developers use allows customers to receive discounts on other software once they have purchased the registered version.

Developers also provide support incentives. The shareware version of software will have everything the registered version has, however, if a person buys the registered version of the software he/she will receive tech support, newsletters, and upgrades. Developers can also limit the number of times you can use the shareware version of the product. The trial version may expire after 10 uses meaning the user has to register if they wish to continue using the software.

Shareware now and how the term changed.

Though the meaning of the term shareware has not changed the perception of shareware has evolved since it began. At first when you had a shareware program there was a note that asked for a donation. Now you are required to pay for the registered version of the shareware program. The shareware industry has also evolved and grown into a billion dollar industry.

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