The app store has come a long way; though, in some ways, it hasn’t changed at all. In the beginning, there was file sharing; and, in the beginning, there was shareware. Today, in 2019, blockchain technology has entered the mix in response to issues such as censorship, embargoes, witch hunts, and viruses. From BBSes to USENET; from app eCommerce sites to app directories and aggregators; to Google Play and Apple App Store; and into the future with Torrents and even decentralized ledger technology (DLT)-based blockchain app-exchanges; the road from the programmer’s text editor through compiler and all the way into your RAM has relied on the dance between accessibility, convenience, usability, price, quality, and security.
In the Beginning
In the beginning, there was retail software and there was shareware. Back in 1983, when I bought my first PC, an IBM PC AT, Windows didn’t exist and there were no such things as hard drives—at least on my machine. I had the choice of buying shrink-wrapped boxes with 5.25” possibly multiple 5.25” floppy disks or I could dial up to the local BBS and either pirate retail software or select from a number of sometimes very basic apps and drivers that were either free or of the “take an app, leave an app” model, some of the earliest versions of file sharing. Over modems.
Later, I was more of an Apple user, and I downloaded a lot of freeware and shareware apps. In many cases, these downloads had gone online were downloaded straight from what were obviously file systems on the host server. Later, proto-e-commerce sites started offering these apps, programs, and drivers either as shareware, trialware, or freeware. Ground zero of all of this was Bob Wallace who came up with the term shareware to describe his program called PC-Write. He, Jim Button, and Andrew Fluegelman together are the fathers of marketing and selling shareware as a business.
According to the Doom Wiki:
“Shareware is a software marketing concept where an incomplete or time-limited version of a program is released free of charge or for a nominal distribution fee, with encouragement to further distribute, in order to entice people into buying the full (registered) version.”
While Doom and Heretic were technically initially released as shareware, strictly speaking, they were demoware, “each containing only the first respective nine-level episode in the unregistered version”—one can say that shareware that goes too far with limiting functionality before purchase is more hobbleware or crippleware, not shareware—though shareware isn’t intended to be free—that’s freeware—but shareware should be mostly functional even without purchase; otherwise it’s demoware or trialware.
The Network Effect
Shareware was the first marketing strategy that used the network effect to spread access to as many users as possible by hook or by crook. Even before the web and even before BBSes became popular and readily accessible, there were computer clubs and people would swap floppies (5.25” and 3.5” floppy disks), literally peer-to-peer. When BBSes and even services like USENET and AOL and CompuServe came online, it wasn’t pirating or stealing to upload a shareware application that anyone could download without fear of getting in trouble with the host or the cops (currently, my favorite shareware is TextPad for Windows and BBEdit for Mac and my favorite freeware is PuTTY.)
Later, when the web took over, and even after the Napster and Limewire P2P file sharing craze, and before Apple launched the App Store, sites like Tucows and download.com categorized, organized, reviewed, recommended, and even guaranteed the purity of the many apps hosted on their servers.
BitTorrent still endures all over the world to this day, but when it comes to apps for smartphones, the Apple App Store and Google Play rule the roost. They benefit from the convenience of being built into the fibers of the phones. Every iPhone has an App Store icon and every Android has an icon for Google Play. And, as Apple and Android products grow, these app stores service Chromebooks and Powerbooks and iPads.
Monopolies are Tyrannies
With these monopolies also come forms of tyranny. Apps that compete too much with Apple and Google don’t need to be allowed onto their respective stores. And controversial or political apps can be de-platformed and deleted from stores, even if they’ve been popular for years. For example, all apps published by Infowars and Alex Jones, though very popular, have been removed from the App Store and from iTunes. Apple has also removed the sort of virtual private network (VPN) apps from the Apple App Store serving China to prevent their citizens from bypassing the Great Firewall of China.
The Future is Now
One of the most innovative app-hosting platforms is the DAO Playmarket 2.0 Android app store. As it’s built on the decentralized and globally-distributed blockchain, the Playmarket Android App Store is impervious to censorship, to hacking, to injecting a virus, and any and all apps that are hosted in the app store can survive trends in political correctness—goodbye Alex Jones—or the kind of thought control exerted by national firewalls in countries like China, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam, and even England, the EU, and the USA (with regards copyright). Records in the decentralized ledger on the blockchain are immutable and cannot be corrupted without the sort of checksum that will prevent the change from being propagated across all the worldwide Nodes.
This is really a new and innovative way of doing things—and it’s just the tip of the iceberg of innovations that the Playmarket platform offers, including fundraising, marketing, money-making, and investment tools—so it’s still bleeding edge in terms of adoption; however, it’s a working, living, running, proof of concept that illuminates future-tech that exists today.
Many Nodes Make Light Work
Shareware defined that value of making sure that app developers should spread their seed far and wide for the best effect and the best success—even back to the day when nerd and geek hobbyists were swappin’ floppies at hobbyist meetings and conferences. Distributing and decentralizing across as many nodes as possible across as much of the universe as possible as quickly and persistently as possible ensures massive propagation and, ultimately, survival. The future of shareware is blockchain as is the future of the app store, the music store, and the bookstore. It’s very exciting getting a peep through the porthole into future tech today.ttt