Python Shareware?

Brad Bollenbach bbollenbach at
Sat Jun 9 00:09:11 EDT 2001

"Jonathan Gardner" <gardner at> wrote in message
news:9fr2jm$16v$1 at
> Jian Chen wrote:
> > I am considering writing some shareware in python. I got some
> > questions about it:
> <snip>
> > 3. How can I lock/secure my python shareware?
> Okay, here's my opinion on shareware: Don't do it, it's too much hassle.
> If you are interested in making software, you should be interested in
> making it good. So you GPL the code, allow everyone to use it, and modify
> it, and thus the software will become good/the best/whatever.

True enough. More eyes, and the passion that a lot of Free Software
developers have for their craft is definitely a good way to turn good into

> If you are interested in making _money_, you have to have a product or a
> service to sell. Software is not a good product, but *support* for the
> software is a tangible service that you can charge really good fees for.

I'm not sure about software not being a good product. Considering that MS
makes most of their money from the businesses that buy the licenses (rather
than J. Random Warezdownloader), and NO business-owner in their right mind
would fool around with licensing issues. Whether it's easy to copy or not,
the most important share of the market is forking out a lot of money for the
service of producing good software.

> After all, you are the one who wrote it, so the people who use it will
> naturally turn to you for support. If you target the software for large
> organizations, you can charge quite a bit of money to give them insurance
> and service.

Possible, but not happening very often at all in the real world. For every
one company that can be shown to be generating revenue only from their tech
support, there's probably 200 that make their money from sales of software.

> Let me address why software is not a good product: 1) It is too easy to
> copy. There is no cost to reproducing it. Compare that to a book, a
> computer, or a chair. 2) You are not the smartest guy on the planet, so
> method you think of in trying to make it difficult to reproduce is not
> going to work. (Even the smartest guy on the planet doesn't stand a chance
> to hundreds and thousands of crackers.) 3) And when someone DOES illegally
> copy the software, how are you going to force them to pay?

See previous points on why the "ease of copying" doesn't really matter in a
lot of markets. Just like the fact that Napster existed as CD sales were /on
the rise/, warez barely dents the sales figures of software.

> 4) If your software isn't really that useful or good, someone else is
going to make
> something better, and leave your product in the dust. Or you will be
> to constantly upgrade it rather than take a vacation.
> You have better hope of collecting money by saying, "This software is
> If you like it, and want more of it, give me money." and let the people
> use it work on it.

In a world where Linus would be king, this is a great statement to believe
in. In this world however there aren't any companies that make money (at the
very least, anywhere near comparable to competitors that sell proprietary
code) by giving away the code, and living off the support fees. Feel free to
look at how companies like Redhat and VA Linux are doing. It's pretty grim

> There is anexception to this rule: If you have mega-bucks behind you to
> actually form a company complete with legal department, and if you can
> recruit enough talent to make your software better than anything free out
> there, then you have a chance of making software that you can sell,
> you can afford to put it on store shelves and get good advertising for it.
> And in this case, the people that pay for it will far outnumber the people
> who won't.

Yes, imagine the very rare situation of those companies that make money off
of selling proprietary software! :) "Mega-bucks" are hardly required. I
worked for a company that had 3 programmers and yet our client-base numbered
well over 400. Considering that our main product cost well over $3000 (with
yearly support fees being about half that, IIRC), things were good.

> There is another benefit to you of free software: If you are really good
> programming, you can show off with your GPL'ed code, and use that to get
> into a company that is willing to pay you to code stuff for them. You
> show off code that is closed-source, like code from, say, your previous
> job. So, with your GPL'ed code (which has been tested and developed by
> people who are actually interested in using it, so it will be much better
> than anything you can write on your own) you can claim a lot of credit for
> it, and demand $100,000 or more for salary. If they think you are crazy,
> tell them to read the code and try the software. If they want to produce
> software like that, then they have to hire you.

Other than the really big names (a la Torvalds, GvR, Wall et al.) this
rarely happens. At the very least, when good programmers get good jobs, it's
because they are very bright people who have a lot to offer, not because of
the license they choose for their software. Realistically, most PHB's have
less than half-a-clue about what the GPL is (*hyuck* *hyuck* isn't that
onnuh them globawl pawsitioning thingmahoots?)

> I think a steady income of $100,000 or more a year will benefit more than
> the meager sales of a shareware piece of software. Plus, you get the
> comfort of knowing your check shows up every month, and it's the same
> amount each time.
> Again, that is just my opinion. I have no experience with trying to make
> money from shareware software, I have just observation on my side.

After all this has been said, what experience do you have for becoming rich
from writing a GPL'd program that's taken the world by storm? :)

> I hope this starts an interesting thread.

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