What Is Freeware?

Home & Family, Technology
on March 10, 2012

Freeware — the concept of getting a techy something for free — is very appealing. The positives to freeware are not simply in the cost, or lack thereof. Freeware is a concept, a philosophy and a movement akin to the original purpose of the Internet: free and open sharing ideas with others, minus limitations and monetization, in order to make things better. But what is freeware for the average computer user?

Who coined the term? Dictionary.com credits attorney, MS-DOS author and "PC World Magazine" editor Andrew Fluegelman for coining the term “freeware." He owned the trademark until his disappearance in 1985.

Define freeware. The term “freeware” is simply a portmanteau or blending of two words — free and software. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a not-for-profit charity that advocates for free software and its philosophies. FSF stands behind this definition of freeware: The continually changing definition is a matter of liberty in the fashion of free speech. Software should allow the user freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. This means easy distribution for no cost and access to the source code.

What are popular freeware titles? Hundreds of free software titles are available. Some popular favorites from Download.com include:

  • Mozilla Firefox — an open-source Internet browser
  • Disk Drill — data protection, backup and recovery
  • Virtual DJ — mix, scratch and remix MP3s or music videos
  • TeamViewer — remote control and file transfer via the Internet
  • Freegate — to access sites blocked in China via anonymous proxy
  • Download Accelerator Plus — to manage Internet downloads, improve speed, find mirror sites and fix broken downloads

What is the benefit of providing freeware? One obvious benefit to freeware is that you can select from a variety of software programs, download and use them freely at no cost. Another more meaningful benefit is that the modifications made based on the free access to the software source code provide the entire community a chance to benefit from those alterations. Thus, the software is continually being added to and tweaked to perfection, and the social solidarity of sharing and cooperation benefit society.

Who makes money from freeware? The developers of freeware or free software make money the simplest way possible — they ask for it. Most Internet sites that offer their freeware for download will also add a request for donations. Much like many museums, you have the choice to donate or not.