Free In Twelve

“Free In Twelve” is a new licensing model that I dreamed up. Others may have thought of it before me but, if so, I haven’t heard of it.

The concept is very simple. Think of Trialware, and swap the sequence. Pay, and then get a free trial. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Here’s why it isn’t….


Everyone likes free stuff. It gets more downloads. It’s often used in more places. Everyone can afford it. There are lots of pluses.

The main downside is that it isn’t actually sustainable. In a world where developers need money for food, accommodation and other needs; it is hard to continue doing something for nothing. Either developers need to work a second job that does pay, or they have to charge something for some of their software.

It is broader than just developers too. Download sites exist and they are often funded by commissions earned from paid programs. A 30% commission on a free program is nothing – so it is pretty hard to pay web hosting fees if the only commissions you are getting are for free programs.

Paid Software

Some people actually want to pay for software. They want the reassurance that what they have is up-to-date. They want to know that all of the latest patches are in place. They want access to the latest features to put themselves ahead of their competitors. Downtime costs money and paying a little to save a lot is very good business sense.

Parts of the software industry have addressed this with the “Free for non-commercial use” licenses. That does work reasonably well; but it doesn’t really help small businesses that have small incomes and often struggle to make ends meet. “Free for non-commercial use” is often an extra hurdle to jump if you’re starting a small business, or if you’re trying to keep one afloat.

A Combination

What is really needed is a way that customers (you) can choose whether fast access to updates or cost is more important.

The idea behind “Free In Twelve” is just that. You can choose to have access to the latest version of a program right now. It might be something really useful. It might make things run a lot smoother for you. Whatever the reason, you get to choose. If you can’t afford it, if it isn’t crucial to your business, if you don’t need to stay ahead of the competition; don’t get the update just yet.

Software that is “Free In Twelve” automatically disables licensing, twelve months after the software was released. It effectively becomes freeware at that time. All of the functionality remains. No limits are imposed. It is the full product; but free.

In my software, I’m now using this:

    if (NotYetFree(BUILD_YMD,12))
        if (IsExpired(...))
            show error message

It really is that simple and that free.

Benefits Of Free In Twelve

  • You get free software.
  • Paid programs become free.
  • Companies that need updates get them when they need them.
  • Developers get paid and can spend time developing updates or more software.
  • Download sites can earn something on, what were and will again be, free programs.

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