A CDE Definition
Software on the "honor system." The concept is that users try a product, and if they like it, they voluntarily pay a set registration fee or make a donation to the program's creator. There are tens of thousands of shareware programs; some fantastic, some awful.
Typically written part time by individuals, shareware had its heyday in the 1980s and early 1990s. Although some applications were successful, the bulk were not, and most shareware evolved into trial versions that work for a limited time or lite versions that have limited functionality (see trialware and lite version).
The Shareware Heydays
Prior to the Web, "shareware vendors" copied hundreds of shareware programs onto floppy disks and CD-ROMs and sold them by mail order or at computer flea markets. They collected a small fee for the distribution service, although novices often thought it was the software registration fee. In the late 1990s, advertiser-supported shareware websites sprang up to provide distribution. See crippleware, freeware, public domain software, ad-supported software and wares.
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