Freeware is copyrighted computer software which is made available for use free of charge, for an unlimited time, as opposed to shareware where the user is required to pay (e.g. after some trial period). Authors of freeware often want to "give something to the community", but also want credit for their software and to retain control of its future development. Sometimes when programmers decide to stop developing a freeware product, they will give the source code to another programmer or release the product's source code to the public as free software.
The term freeware was coined by Andrew Fluegelman when he wanted to sell a communications program named PC-Talk that he had created but for which he did not wish to use traditional methods of distribution because of their cost. Previously, he held a trademark on the term "freeware" but this trademark has since been abandoned. Fluegelman actually distributed PC-Talk via a process now referred to as shareware.
The only criterion for being classified as "freeware" is that the software must be made available for use for an unlimited time at no cost. The software license may impose one or more other restrictions on the type of use including personal use, individual use, non-profit use, non-commercial use, academic use, commercial use or any combination of these. For instance, the license may be "free for personal, non-commercial use." Everything created with the freeware programs can be distributed at no cost (for example graphic, documents, or sounds made by user).
There is some software that may be considered freeware, but that have limited distribution; that is, they may only be downloaded from a specific site, and they can not be redistributed. Hence, these software wouldn't be freely redistributable software. According to the basic definition, that software would be freeware; according to stricter definitions, they wouldn't be.
Comparison with other terms
Freeware contrasts with free software, because of the different meanings of the word "free". Freeware is gratis and refers to zero price, versus free software that is described as "libre", which meansfree to study, change, copy, redistribute, share and use the software in any purpose. However, many programs are both freeware and free software. They are available for zero price, provide the source code and are distributed with free software permissions. This software would exclusively be called free software to avoid confusion with freeware that usually does not come with the source code and is therefore proprietary software.
There are many variations of freeware. Freeware is an umbrella term which can include loss leaders (in the form of crippleware), public domain software, free software, proprietary software, and shareware when there is no price to be paid to use the software.
- Glossary of legal terms in technology
- Freely redistributable software
- List of freeware games
- List of commercial games released as freeware
- Gratis versus Libre
- Freeware at the Open Directory Project
- Freeware Wiki - Wiki for freeware reviews