As an entrepreneur/programmer who makes a good living from writing and selling software, I'm dumbfounded as to why developers write applications and then put them up on the Internet for free. You've found yourself in one of the most lucrative fields in the world. A business with 99% profit margin, where you have no physical product but can name your price; a business where you can ship a buggy product and the customer will still buy it.

Occasionally some of our software will get a free competitor, and I think, this guy is crazy. He could be making a good living off of this but instead chose to make it free.

  • Do you not like giant piles of money?
  • Are you not confident that people would pay for it?
  • Are you afraid of having to support it?

It's bad for the business of programming because now customers expect to be able to find a free solution to every problem. (I see tweets like "is there any good FREE software for XYZ? or do I need to pay $20 for that".) It's also bad for customers because the free solutions eventually break (because of a new OS or what have you) and since it's free, the developer has no reason to fix it. Customers end up with free but stale software that no longer works and never gets updated. Customer cries. Developer still working day job cries in their cubicle. What gives?

PS: I'm not looking to start an open-source/software should be free kind of debate. I'm talking about when developers make a closed source application and make it free.

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    "Ship buggy product..." Sigh :( – user1249 Sep 14 '10 at 7:09
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    Free software breaks? I'm sorry you choose bad free software. Have you tried something like Ubuntu? So much quality software in one nice package. And, IE or Chrome being free isn't a bigger issue to you? How's a solitary programmer going to compete with that? – dlamblin Sep 14 '10 at 22:05
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    I've had plenty of payware apps that have died after an OS upgrade and were not updated. – mlk Sep 15 '10 at 8:31
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    Free software breaks more than commercial software? Thats completely false. – alternative Feb 6 '11 at 13:43
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    99% Profit margin? Can I take some of the drugs you're on? My time isn't worthless. – Incognito Feb 6 '11 at 14:32

62 Answers 62

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I want some help in making the thing work. If it's good enough, other people will chip in with their free time to improve my little tool beyond what I'd hope to make of it.

For instance, I wrote a small Mercurial extension, and within two weeks I got two other guys that fixes a bunch of bugs and added some new features, without me doing anything at all. (Well, inspect changes and pull them into my repo.)

Win! :)


I remember when Zope first started off, the developers were putting it out there for free. A venture capitalist came in and asked them basically "why you are doing that." The answer that he received started him in a new business model: free software, paid services. This is where a company puts out free software, but "expert" advice and setup of that software would be marketed in the normal fashion. The FSF and Cygnus Solutions are two companies that had a similar relationship early on: FSF published GCC/G++ for free, Cygnus provided extensive, direct customer support.

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