The Old Shareware and the Android Applications - Fortune

The Old Shareware and the Android Applications

But what did not succeed was to make the customers request free [as-in-speech] software when they (and not the creator of the operating system or the device) choose a program themselves. For instance, only a small part of the Android applications today are free software, and the customers are “content” with a gratis and non-free software program.

I think the reason for this is prosaic — the belief that one can make money easily from non-free software on Android. That if you will only write an application and turn on the bit of “show ads”, then suddenly you will make millions (or at least thousands…) from advertising. What happens eventually is that there are 17 “headlight” (for example) applications in the app store, all showing ads, and each one is used by 17 people and the developer earns a few cents in the good case. This is instead of one headlight application, as free software, which is better than all of them (see for instance). But everyone except the users — Google and the authors of the software — have an interest to push the non-free program to the user.

In the early 1990s there was a similar phenomenon in the PC world - the “shareware”. Then it involved a program that you could get (without the source code!) free-of-charge, but if you wanted to use it beyond a given time (for example a week), or enable features that were limited in the gratis version, you were supposed to pay for it. As far as I know, the whole system was a complete failure — most of the developers did not earn substantial amounts of money, and most of the users ignored the limited features, or cracked them. Nevertheless, during almost two decades, thousands of programmers wasted their time to write such non-free software. Most of the gratis software for the PC back then was shareware - not open source. Today, nothing has remained from all this work. However, a large part of the free software that has been written back then, is still in use today.

If only there was a way to explain to the authors of the mobile applications that no, most of them will not get rich from the applications, like most of the authors of shareware did not, and it’s just better to write free software…

Author Nadav Har’El
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