A longstanding tradition
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on September 1, 2000
Since the first personal computers began appearing in the mid-'70s, hobbyists and programmers have been writing software for them and either giving it away or selling it for much less than a commercial program would get.
When dial-up computer bulletin board systems (BBSs) began appearing in the mid-'80s, one of their most popular features was their file areas. In the years before the World Wide Web, it was BBSs you went to for the latest shareware, freeware and public domain software.
iD Software's "Doom" was one of the first, and certainly the first big, examples of using the online world to successfully market a shareware program. It was distributed over the Internet and via BBS as a free three-level demo. If you liked that demo, you could then purchase the entire program.
Today, the shareware/freeware market is as busy as ever, and thanks to the Web it's easier than ever to find programs online. (In the age of the BBS, you had to individually call up each board, look around their files, then log off and start over with the next board.)
While they started life as two separate sites, c|net has blended Shareware.com and Download.com so much that they've become in reality one super-site.
The files can be accessed either by category or through a search. While the OS category tabs are limited to Windows, Mac, Linux, WindowsCE and Palm OS, the search engine from Shareware.com offers a pull-down menu with options for Amiga, Atari, OS/2, Unix and DOS, in addition to the above.
Software category types on the Shareware.com menu are organized into audio, business, games, etc. 10 in all. Each of those has a dozen or so subcategories, plus each category has a listing for the most popular downloads, the editors' picks and most recent additions.
Interestingly, the files listed aren't necessarily on c|net servers the links often go to other software archives, and not all the links are good, especially on older titles.
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