Revenue-Sharing vs. Paid vs. Free Software Distribution Methods

How do free software distribution methods compare to revenue-sharing distribution solutions?

In some cases, software distribution refers to the technical aspect of software deployment. But at its most basic definition, software distribution refers to getting software into the hands of the end user. By this definition, other marketing practices could also be lumped in with software distribution.

So what exactly is the difference between these three distribution models?

Revenue-sharing distribution methods often refer to tactics such as software bundling, where several developers pool their resources and collective audiences to help promote their software. This can also refer to models where developers split revenue with advertising networks, affiliate marketers, or others who help with the distribution end.

Paid software distribution methods are methods that you pay for, such as advertising.

Free software distribution methods are those that don’t necessarily earn you any money, but still provide promotional benefits such as increased market share.


Bundling could be considered either a revenue-sharing or free software distribution method, depending on how it is set up. Software bundling is common when several developers have smaller code packages they want to distribute and possibly monetize.

Plugins, software extensions, application add-ons, resource files, source code, and similar digital files are good candidates for bundling.

Some developers choose to sell the bundle, in which case everyone involved receives a piece of the pie. Other developers choose to receive other benefits instead, such as increased brand recognition, new partners, portfolio pieces, and so forth.

Pay-Per-Install Programs

Pay-per-install programs are software monetization solutions that can double as paid software distribution solutions. These programs are simply installers that you fit together with your code.

They display ads and third-party offers during the installation process, which acts as a monetization solution. Those same ads, can also act as a vehicle for promoting your own software. 

Pay-Per-Download Networks

A pay-per-download network could be considered a free software distribution tool. Sometimes called content-locking networks, these tools “lock” content behind hyperlinks that only open when a certain action is performed. To open the link, a survey, questionnaire, or other action must be performed. Advertisers pay for each action completed.

In these networks, affiliate marketers, internet marketers, and website owners work on your behalf to help you market your content.

Affiliate Networks

If you choose to charge for your end product, you can also choose to market your product via an affiliate network. As with pay-per-download networks, this revenue-sharing software distribution solution relies on freelance marketers to do the promotion work for you.

Each time a marketer sells your software, they earn a commission. The larger the commission they receive, the more likely they are to help you distribute your software.

Software Directories

Software directories, such as Softonic, are free software distribution solutions that offer exposure for developers. If you have an app you want to promote, simply sign up for a free account, upload your software, add descriptions, indicate the platform, and you’re all set!

Software directories are vast repositories of free software. But  of course, many of these free programs still monetize effectively with pay-per-install programs or in-app ads. Unlike app stores, another free solution, there are fewer restrictions around advertising and incentivized user actions.

App Stores

App stores are free software distribution directories that you are probably familiar with. Apple’s app stores, Google Play, and the Windows Store are probably the most popular app stores around.

But they aren’t the only ones. There are dozens of alternative app stores around the world that can help you distribute your software with zero money down.

Good Old Advertising

Let’s not forget the paid software distribution method: advertising. Whether you are using a premier software advertising network such as DisplayFuel, a pay-per-install network, or a standard ad network, advertising is one of the most common paid software distribution solutions for developers.

Social Media

Social media should form a part of every developer’s online content network. This free software distribution solution simply requires time, but not money. To make the most of your social media, network with others in your niche and be active.

Connecting with authorities in your industry is one of the best ways to promote and aid your software’s distribution.

Web and Search Engine Marketing

Another free software distribution aid, your typical content network should include at least a static website, if not a blog that caters to your industry. To make the most of your website, be as descriptive as possible about your software. Include testimonials, links to your download site – whether it’s through an app store, a software directory, or from your own server – as well as screenshots.


The way we’re looking at it here, software distribution is more than simple deployment. Getting software into the hands of your end user requires a variety of tactics and strategies, from marketing and advertising to bundling and directory listing. Picking the right distribution solution can not only help you grow your business, it can help make you money.