What are abandoned products?

Abandonware is commonly used to refer to computer software that is no longer used or sold by the owner and for which no product support is available from the manufacturer. The most popular abandoned products include word processors, interactive video games, operating systems such as Nextstep and OpenStep among other applications, and these are often downloaded from freeware websites. Some of the most popular abandonware games available online today include Prince of Persia, Prehistorik, Battle Chess, The Armageddon, Terror from the Deep among several others. Such games are usually considered old school, but still find profitability in devices such as PCs and cell phones.

Abandoned products also come about as a result of the company owning rights to the software going out of business or selling the product to a new owner who is not interested in continuing to develop the product. The product is thus no longer marketed or distributed by the owner, but can be obtained from other sources.

Although most of this software is usually under copyright, the owner may not be tracking it and copyright violations are normally not enforced and those who share the products do so without having to compensate the owner. Software may also be considered abandoned when it can only be used with obsolete technologies such as pre-macintosh computers.

Types of abandonware

Being a broad term, abandonware encompasses several types of old software which may include:

  • Commercial Software: This refers to software that is owned by a certain company but lacks support. Some of the companies will make the software available online in form of freeware but others do not make old versions available for free use and do not permit people to copy the software.
  • Shareware: Authors of shareware usually make it available for free. However it is usually difficult to find older versions of such products since most of them are removed when new versions are released. Most shareware is unsupported and unmaintained although there is always a chance of getting a few historical versions.
  • Open source and freeware programs: Some companies usually abandon open source programs and these may be in form of code that can still run in current operating systems. Such products may include abandonware games that can easily be downloaded from freeware websites to the PC or cell phone.

Abandonware products can be made available through official announcement or by cooperation of its developers who release their software into the public domain, making it available as freeware. Most companies however, do not freely give up the copyrights on software but due to the non-enforcement and unprofitability of such copyrights, distribution by others over the internet is not prohibited.


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