Free software is extremely popular nowadays. Many software developers choose the freeware model for positioning their tools. With such a great variety of free programs, it’s a hard task to pick out really worthy ones, so users often rely on authoritative tech resources to make informed choices. FreewareGenius blog is one of such places. Unlike other sites, this freeware blog does not list every single free program on the planet, but it tries to sort out only the best ones. Here is the interview with Samer Kurdi, the man behind FreewareGenius, who has been reviewing free software since 2006.
Freemake: Why did you choose to write about free software?
Samer: It started kind of by accident. I was working at an internet marketing firm where everyone seemed to be starting a web project or blog, and I thought I might do so as well. My wife and kids were away for a couple of weeks and I was re-installing Windows on her laptop, when I realized that most all of the software titles I was installing were free. So I just jumped up and started publishing a blog. I never expected it to become popular. In the early days it was quite challenging â it took me 6 months to get 100 visitors a day. I almost gave it up a couple of dozen times in the first 18 months.
Freemake: What is your personal definition of “freeware”?
Samer: I am wary of providing a definition of freeware. I am not sure why so many people get worked up about this. If a program does something that I consider as adding value, maintains a fairly pleasing esthetic sense while doing it, and doesn’t require me to pay money for the privilege, then I will consider posting it on my site.
Freemake: You started your blog in 2006, what were “freeware stars” at that time? Has the notion of freeware changed a lot since then?
Samer: VLC, CCleaner, GIMP, Picasa, Audacity, etc. , which are all still very popular titles today. Things have changed: free software, web and mobile apps have exploded. I literally have hundreds of tools on my list, waiting to be written up, and it only keeps growing.
Freemake: Do you count how many programs you’ve tested?
Samer: No, I donât. It used to be that I would write about one or two out of every 10 or so programs or web apps that I look at, and if I had to guess I would say that ratio is still the case today. I have about 1250 published posts and I would estimate that I have written about 1500 or so programs on the site, as quite a few posts contain lists of multiple programs.
Freemake: Which among them do you use regularly?
Samer: I use a lot of freeware mentioned on the site quite regularly, most of the titles in the freeware top 30 list. As a matter of principle I try NOT to use paid software, except for Windows obviously and MS Office, the latter because I am very good with Excel and donât want to switch, also I write about numerous free Office add-ons. In most cases I will toss out âfree giveawayâ offers from software outfits because I do not want to be using software which is not technically free.
Freemake: Freeware vs. open-source, which model are you after? Do you agree with GPL advocates that only open-source software is really free?
Samer: I try to be practical about it. The debate doesnât really interest me much, perhaps because I am not a developer myself. If I were to get philosophical about it, I would say that nothing really is free, or rather, that the meaning of âfreeâ has been changing and will keep on changing at an accelerated pace, especially on the Internet.
Freemake: Do you have any taboos regarding free software you write about? What free software you will never recommend?
Samer: I generally will not post software that is visually unattractive or lacks a general look of professionalism. I avoid adware in desktop apps as much as possible, but there are exceptions when I really like the software and the ads are elegantly laid out or at least not in-your-face. I also donât care for ‘me-too’ software that has been done a million times before, unless it has some sort of redeeming quality. There are certain categories of software that I generally avoid: e.g. 1-click system âoptimizationâ software â I generally donât know what these things do to your system and if they actually result in a real speed increase. Registry cleaners also annoy me, because I now believe that they should only be used by advanced users, and that they probably do more harm than good. But I have on occasion posted duds, despite my best efforts.
Freemake: Do you have any other occupation outside your blog? Any hobbies?
Samer: I now do my blog as my main work, although I’m involved in a few side projects. People may be surprised to learn that I am also an artist and expressionistic painter. I think I was a rather good one; it was my main concept of who I am for a very long time. I also have a bachelorâs degree in philosophy and an MBA from a major university. I played at being all âbusinessyâ for a while.
Freemake: Your blog’s slogan is “Someday all software will be free”. Is this day approaching?
Samer: Yes and no. Yes because it’s more and more the case that developers can make money out of free software, which is why we have had an explosion of freeware in the past few years. And there are many ways to do this, which I won’t get into here.
More philosophically, software is becoming just like any media, competing for peopleâs attention, an informational product that has to be consumed to exist. And with so much media out there competing for users’ attention and a finite amount of time, the trend towards free software will only continue to grow.
But what weâve seen is that software has become so cheap that the price tag is almost irrelevant, or at least non-prohibitive. Every time I buy my son a $30 Nintendo DS game I am reminded that I could have spent $0.99 for a iPad game of equal or better quality, for example. Perhaps I should change my slogan to âSomeday all software will be free â or almost free!â