shareware tetrisShareware, that is today’s buzzword.

Shareware is a term used to describe a certain type of computer software which can be downloaded for free and used for free. However if the user deems it to be useful they are encouraged to pay a suggested fee to the copyright owner. This works purely on trust and honesty – the software developer trusts that if the users like it they will honestly donate money. It’s a successful model and has been ever since it was invented by Bob Wallace in the mid-80’s in order to promote and distribute his software PC-Write in a completely new method.

Piracy is at it’s largest within the computer and entertainment industry, yet shareware is relatively unaffected by it and is still a growing and successful distribution method to this day.

Why? Because people are honest, plain and simple. Some of the most useful software I have is shareware and also open-source so it is constantly being updated and improved upon in a much more efficient way than the corporate behemoths of the software industry.

So how does the shareware method help/affect the rest of the business world?

Recently we found a bit of video on the Monday 9am site we wanted to use as part of our Platform project. All the video here is available for anyone to download and use for free, however they do ask that if you want to use it commercially you pay a one of fee of £100. Obviously you don’t have to pay the fee, and I’m sure there are many people who don’t (what are the chances of them finding out?), but the honest people out there who like to do everything by the book will pay the money. Also the clip we used would have cost us far more to film anyway so it’s a bargain really.

Now you could argue that £100 per license is too much. Is it better to charge £1 per download and have nothing for free or make one sale in 100 and charge £100? The chances are more people will download it and use it if it’s free, which means more honesty potential and more £100 licenses.

Does your business model work on trust? Does it even account for trust? Could you increase your market and your gravity for potential customers by moving one or more of your products over to the shareware method?