From Open Source to Freeware & Scareware: a what’s what..!

Back in the 90’s we used to be comfortable downloading most, if not all software, from sites such as and others that were commonly accepted to be reliable websites. But over the years the landscape has changed a lot. Not that the sites have changed much. is still up and still distributes a lot; but rather my taste for software has changed, as have the flavours that we can get our desired software in.

In the hedonism of the 90’s shareware was used as a promotional tool to distribute a restricted version of something. In my efforts to find affordable software since I’ve tried a lot of variations of trials, demos, freeware, shareware and opensource software. But it’s a jungle out there with a lot of outdated platforms who have inserted their advertisements and spyware into the official software & its installers.

Now in 2016 I’ve given up on doggy websites, small time and unsupported software.
I’ve moved towards opensource software combined with (old and bought) proprietary software combined with a few license subscriptions (The Foundry & Adobe).

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of inconsistent opinion within the tech community in reference to the differences between said opensource licenses, when compared to free or shareware – but there are significant differences.

A little about the differences…

Proprietary Software Licenses.

The most familiar way of acquiring your software, by purchasing the licensed software on a physical medium like an optical disk or a usb-drive. Most games and software are available this way, although a lot of the more professional software has moved to a subscription model as explained in SAAS.

Software As A Service.

SAAS is a license in the form of a subscription, with which the software is usually available and fully functional for a fixed period. A single project/production run/software edition/time period, all being possible variables. More often than not, time is the over-riding variable, with availability generally ranging from a single month, to a year, or even a lifetime (World of Warcraft/Rift).

One notable advantage of the SAAS licence is that usually during the period of paid subscription, the software is supported, maintained and updated by the provider at no extra cost. This can go part way to explain why much highly technical and professional level software has gravitated towards this kind of licence.


This is a form of software that gives you intentional advertisements that may, or may not be for the software itself, and which are usually promoting affiliated software or services. This type of income generation is also a very popular variation in SAAS. You pay only for the removal of advertisements, not for any functionality in the software itself.

Some of the more malignant software of this type even goes as far as to install complete advertising engines that are bigger than the original software they “complement”! These advertising engines are not even focused on the associated software – and more worryingly can often prove very difficult to thoroughly cleanse from any affected machine. Particularly for those with young children around, such software can cause significant headaches.

Cripple-Ware (or Sucker-Ware as I prefer to call it..)

This software option gives you the basics but removes any production level tools rendering it utterly useless in free mode. I’m not talking about for instance a 4K export option instead of HD or 720 like Lightwave video editor delivers but more in a sense of a virus scanner that won’t actually remove something unless the paid subscription is bought or in instance of video software, something that wouldn’t be able to export at all.

It is also not uncommon for this flavour to be combined with some of the worst attributes of Ad-Ware – so perhaps the title of this section could even be: Sucker-Bware..! Some of the worst offenders in this regard are the so-called registry cleaners and software designed to “fix & speed-up” your Windows machine. It wouldn’t be so bad, and I might have avoided making the point altogether: if it wasn’t for the fact that much of the software just mentioned is also ultimately found to be trite at its job – often creating bigger problems than were originally to be found on the machine in question…


Every time you launch this software it will show you a splash screen advertising a full version and halting the start-up processes for a few seconds of mandatory waiting time, designed to focus the user on their carefully crafted advert.


This software is generally free of charge, not fully featured, and can be found in most software categories.

Usually in the form of a restricted version that is unable to do some of the more demanding functions, or in a trial format that locks down after a couple of weeks, or a fixed number of uses.


Software that is in trial is supposed to lock down after a fixed number of uses or a certain period of time. This is a common practice for SAAS to use: by giving a month of free subscription to a user to convince him/her of the practicality of the application and motivate them towards a paid subscription.


A completely free service, or application that solely survives on donations. This model can be seen in use with a lot of popular mods and plugins for applications. It is less seen in regular corporate software.

A very familiar form of business model, as commonly used to finance services such as Wikipedia, who ask their users for a voluntary contribution from time to time.


A product or service delivered functional, but stifled up to a point that though still of use, much of the more unique &/or useful functionality is little more than a technical advert for the fully paid-up version. A lot of applications also either restrict the amount of users registered to the service, or other non-essential but very useful functionality to the software or service. Good examples of this license format are Lightwave, Trello and cCleaner.

Personal Learning Edition

A version of the software that is only for educational purposes and doesn’t have the ability to exchange its saves to a full version. Conversely, full version saves are able to be opened in a PLE.

Non-Commercial license.

Similar to a Personal Learning Edition. Only differing in the way it handles saves between the non-commercial version and a full licensed version.


OSS is software where its source code isn’t locked away, but made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the full rights to study, alter, and distribute the software/code to anyone, and for any purpose.

This software takes another approach to business by stating that only expertise and knowledge should be paid and not the outcome/result of that knowledge. We’ve paid for the code’s development, so the coder has been paid for the development of the software, and it should not be necessary to acquire other means of income for the evolution of the code/program/app.

Another way to look at this: if the coder of a particular software has been paid a professional/satisfactory wage for their time spent working on the code in question (often the case in an educational environment), then it may not/should not be necessary to acquire other means of income for the development of the code. In some ways it could be characterised as a royalty-free arrangement. Though possibly not immediately obvious, there are significant advantages for the coder. If their work is good, it gets spread with much greater rapidity, and to much greater acclaim. Hence a common stipulation in this license format, is that the coder(s) be acknowledged in some way beside their work, wherever it may be used.

Footnote: if anyone questions what I have just written above – just stop for a moment and think about the music business, the Internet, and your own music collection both digital & physical..!!


Edited by Giles Wright in the UK, on 24th March 2016…

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