Isn’t Buyer Beware: Why Freeware Always Free

Posted on Jul 25 2014 - 11:17am by Editor

On the Internet, as in life, not all is as seems. One must read the fine lines with great attention. For example, what does the word ‘free’ actually entail online? ‘Freeware’ is a popular term used by suppliers and producers of software, yet consumers have difficulty interpreting the myriad of meanings of ‘free.’ Is the freeware an open-source, fully-functioning software or are there strings attached like some downloadable games and applications?


Freeware is not always free from strings. Moreover, in some instances, the user isn’t getting all the things expected free of charge. Be aware of what freeware you’re using and what you have access to in the free versions, and you’re more likely to be happy with the result.


Adware is another variety of freeware, free software hosting ads. In some cases, the ads do not deter from keeping attention and using tools, but, in other cases, ads are extremely aggressive and take away from browsing or effective and peaceful use.


Crippleware is free, yet, when downloaded, does not offer all the features of the paid version. Often, the description of the software (and the associated ‘free’ price tag) attracts customers who would otherwise not be interested in paying a fee. Manufacturers hope the initial interest combined with limited function will prompt a consumer to purchase the full package.


You may have downloaded a free application from the Internet, later noticing a ‘new’ toolbar attached to your browser. In some cases, applications are bundled along with other tools, files, applications, etc. Manufacturers pay others to bundle their services along with an application for greater exposure. It’s not entirely ethical, but not illegal, yet annoying and confusing to consumers who can feel the software’s unwanted and unexpected intrusion means the software isn’t worth having.


In some cases, such as in web security software like McAfee, publishers release both free and paid versions of software. Usually, the free version is condensed or limited compared to the commercial version that is destined for large-scaled projects or business needs. Publishers hope the ‘free sample’ entices serious subscribers (with larger needs) to proceed with greater investment. For most small-scale users, the free, condensed version may be just what is needed.


Like crippleware, trialware offers full functionality for a shorter time window, finally disabling itself unless subscribers are willing to open their wallets. Of course, up front, the software is labeled as ‘free,’ and for a short period, (technically) it is. Sometimes trialware’s capabilities are enough for users, and sometimes it’s a good way to actually try something out before purchasing. Just be aware of what you can use and for how long.

Open-Source Freeware

This is a true type of ‘freeware’ that can be used wherever, whenever, and forever for whomever. The software is downloaded and used as produced, or, because of the open-source logistics, modified as desired. Computer-savvy professionals enjoy toying with open-source software as they can tailor it to meet immediate and varying needs. Software, such as the Vuze file sharing client, offers closed and open-source freeware to meet individual customer needs. Open-source puts you in control of the software, so if you have a choice, open-source freeware is the way to go.


Why would producers and associates make the definition of ‘free’ so complicated? How liberal are you with your interest when a particular desire is free versus hosting a fee? Marketers know the tantalizing value of the word ‘free.’ That’s why it’s very important for consumers to get wise regarding the varieties of ‘freeware’ and what particular download agreements and actions entail.

Continue to read up on ‘freeware’ and its variations. Moreover, if you’re uncomfortable about downloading a file or application, proceed with caution, asking a professional before potentially damaging your computer. When you know the limitations, risks, and ultimately the usability of freeware, you’ll be in control of your computer’s software.

Samuel Reyes develops internet software. He often blogs about his years of experience in order to help the regular web user to make better choices.