...written for almost every imaginable use are available on the net for free. Called shareware, the model is simple. Download whatever software you want for free, try it out, and if you like it, send some money to the author. Dozens of entrepreneurs have made their million dollars selling goods by this protocommercial method. More and more, the triumph of the commons overrides orthodox business models.
As Stewart Brand says, the main event of the emerging World Wide Web is its current absence of a business model in the midst of astounding abundance. The gift economy is one way players in the net rehearse for a life of following the free and anticipating the cheap. This is also a way for entirely new business models to shake out. Furthermore the protocommercial stage is a way for innovation to fast-forward into hyperdrive. Temporarily unhinged from the constraints of having to make a profit by next quarter, the greater network can explore a universe of never-before-tried ideas. Some ideas will even survive the transplantation to a working business.
It's a rare (and foolish) software outfit these days that does not introduce its wares into the free economy as a beta version in some fashion. Fifty years ago the notion of releasing a product unfinished--with the intention that the users would help complete it--would have been considered either cowardly, cheap, or inept. But in the new regime, this precommercial stage is brave, prudent, and vital.