International Shareware Day: How shareware has shaped the world

Published: Friday 9th December 2016 by Rich Sutherland

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Whilst perhaps not part of everyone’s daily vocabulary, shareware certainly plays an enormous role in our everyday lives.

The term “shareware” was first used in 1983 for a computer programme called PC-Write, a word processing tool. Since then, countless pieces of shareware have been released around the globe, from antivirus software to video players.

Saturday 10 December is International Shareware Day, a time to celebrate not only the software itself, but also the people behind its many forms.

To get more of a feel for how shareware is used, we spoke to some local tech experts. First off, Alex Youden, the entrepreneur behind NFire Labs, gives some insight into how shareware is enabling new applications for 3D printing.

How does shareware benefit your industry?

“Without shareware and open source designs that can be viewed by anyone, 3D printing wouldn’t be the technology it is today. With the entire globe collaborating to make the industry quicker and more accessible, it has made incredible progress over recent years.”

“3D printing is soon going to be a major part of the world. Thanks to free information and software, the future will be here far sooner than we think.”

What kind of projects has NFire Labs worked on that involved shareware?

“The NFire 1 3D printer is open source. This means that all of the files and designs are freely available to download and use.”

“Instead of spending hundreds of pounds shipping a kit or parts between the UK and another country, someone can just get a manufacturing company to make the parts for them.”

“With the power of the internet and sharing files, anyone anywhere can gain access to the latest designs. This greatly reduces costs and lead times.”

“We have even had people emailing us about modifications they have made to their own NFire 1 printers, which is exactly what open source and shareware promotes.”

Why do you think shareware is important, both now and in the future?

“With shareware and open source designs, the entire world can contribute to and benefit from a common goal.”

“If one singular company locked down 3D printing, the technology certainly wouldn’t be in the shape it is today. Any form of tech can develop and grow from this method of creation.”

Jacob Blakey, Marketing Director at digital agency Blink, agrees with this:

“Shareware is a great model, which encourages the trialling of complex software before committing to a purchase.”

“Ultimately, this reduces the friction of exposure, and provides confidence to potential buyers before investing in the product.”

Cairn Emmerson, Filmmaker and Company Director at Bakehouse Productions, added to the conversation:

“We’ve used shareware for many years as a way of trying out new applications before committing to purchasing them.”

“It’s the perfect scenario. We don’t have to pay out until we’ve proved that the software will fit our requirements and that there aren’t any major bugs that affect its functionality.”

With the whole point of shareware being that it’s free to access, it would be hard to find anyone who opposes the format. Meanwhile, with developers retaining the right to charge for their designs, and only releasing shareware if they wish to, it’s a fair system that has been changing the world for decades.

Here’s to International Shareware Day and everything it helps us to achieve, from secure emails to faster mobile phones.

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Published: Friday 9th December 2016 by Rich Sutherland

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