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Donationware is a software product that is offered to the public for free, along with requests for optional donations. Donationware is commonly considered a type of freeware because users can obtain the full product without paying for a license.
Donationware offers an alternative model for those who want to collect money to offset the cost of creating software products. One way to think about donationware is that a developer or small company can operate on a lean business model where, instead of paying for all of the costs involved in selling software, developers can simply distribute programs for free and ask for donations from users to cover nominal costs. Because the upfront, overhead cost is lower, those who make donationware may be able to recoup costs through donations. Donationware also helps get around the issue of piracy.
Donationware can also be a way to promote a particular design philosophy in IT that could be called collaborative. One example is the Ubuntu Linux product offered by Canonical. The idea is that while users often get involved in the development of software through testing, providing input, or otherwise interacting with software products, they can also assist by effectively crowdfunding a new software product or version.