Why Freeware Software Is Not Free

by admin on April 16, 2009

Every couple of weeks we get contacted by someone asking if our project management software iPlanWare is free (of charge). When we politely tell them that actually no, it is not free (here is the pricing if you are interested) they always seem a bit disgruntled.

So, after I explain that our employees have bills to pay, kids to feed and our salaries are paid because we charge for software…. I then start explaining further why our software is not free – and that software that appears “free” is not.

  1. “Free” software started as a matter of liberty and not of price and this point is well summarised in this post. Free means free to fix, augment and share things back with the community. If you are not going to do this, then why not contribute money to the free software foundation.
  2. Everything has a cost. Freeware has ended up costing something to someone, somewhere down the line.
  3. Companies like iPlanWare invest a substantial amount of time and money in their products. Good design costs and we have to pay for our R&D somehow.
  4. Software needs supporting. I don’t mean just bug fixes but general help with the software – “how do I do?” type questions. Who is going to support the freeware you use? This is exactly why organisations like sugarcrm offer a “commercial open source” option. When you investigate the pricing of commercial “paid” freeware you quickly realise it is going to cost you the same as regular paid software.
  5. With freeware you have the option to fix and augment the software yourself. But are you really going to do this? Or are you just going to use it? If so refer back to point 1.

I have a couple of builders quoting me for a new extension at the moment. Perhaps I will ask them if they would build it for free. No wait a minute, next time someone asks me if our software is free, I will tell them yes, if you give us some of your organisations products or time to the same value for free. Seems fair?

I should stress, I have nothing against freeware and use quite a few freeware products myself. In fact this blog is created using freeware. And in thanks I have answered quite a few questions posted by WordPress users to problems we have also encountered.

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