What is Shareware?

Shareware is software companies distribute to users for free. It is at least partially free or available to use at no cost for a limited time. The idea is to let potential customers test a trial of the product so they can decide whether to invest in the full version or not.

Bob Wallace, one of the first Microsoft employees in 1978, came up with the concept of shareware. In the early 80s, he founded his own company, Quicksoft, and distributed his product – a word processor called PC-Write. At that time, programs and storage media were expensive, so the free and voluntary distribution had clear benefits for both parties.

This approach was quickly adopted by other start-ups that did not have the budget for extensive marketing or sales. Sometimes the software was given away for free and could be used without any restrictions. Profits would then be achieved via a moral obligation to buy or from additional upsells such as information, extensions, and updates.

Types of Shareware

Shareware can be divided into a few different categories:

  • Advertising-supported software or “adware” intended to display advertisements to the user.
  • A demo or trial version (Trialware) of the software.
  • Freemium with some functions available, but you have to pay for full functionality.