An Introduction to CFS
by Graham Pockett
(founder, editor & all round good guy)
Welcome to CFS, where we pride ourselves on delivering the freshest freeware on the Net.
The CFS site was started in May 1996 as part of my personal homepage. When I initially created that homepage I posted a "My Interests" section on it (as many people do). I had been collecting freeware from local BBSs so included a list of 6 or 8 favorite programs under the descriptive sub-heading of "Completely Free Software".
I had no comprehension at the time that this small listing, and that rather cumbersome sub-heading, would grow into one of the largest and most respected freeware sites in the world!
My hobby of collecting freeware (see Confessions Of A Software Pirate) and my new Internet connection (even with a slow 14.4k modem) ensured that the list continued to grow. It did not take long until that small list ceased to be a "sub heading" and became an entity with a page of its own. Within a couple of months, it had grown into multiple pages and was starting to get serious attention from the general public and the press.
the press discovers CFS
I believe the first time CFS was reported upon by the press was in the Australian magazine, "MegaGuide to the Internet" published early in 1997. CFS was featured in "The Best 1001 Websites" section.|
Most listings in that magazine (including those of huge sites like Yahoo and Intel) were simply a couple of lines of text, but CFS commanded nearly a quarter of a page! (Click on the image to the see the listing.)
Even though this magazine was only available in Australia, the number of visitors to the site increased enormously and Australians were obviously quick to tell their Internet friends about this "best kept secret on the Net" because visitors from overseas specially from the US began to flock to the site. The trickle of visitors became a veritable flood during this period and I was amazed at the growing visitor stats.
Since then most of the major computer and Internet magazines throughout the world have honored CFS. For example, the prestigious PC User magazine (March 2004 edition) did a feature on Internet freebies (written by award-winning computer journalist, Rose Vines). The following is a quote from that article:
"Probably the best two freeware sites on the Internet are Completely Free Software (www.completelyfreesoftware.com) and NoNags (www.nonags.com). ... Completely Free Software (CFS), in particular, is rigorous in screening out faux freeware. CFS also reviews and rates each program on its site. It eliminates broken links to download sites and includes many freeware programs not listed by other freeware services."
weekly newsletter & domain name
In an attempt to create a community of freeware collectors, the CFS Weekly Newsletter started in mid 1997 and you can still read the first edition online (check it out, you will also see what the site looked like back then some of the links even go to pages like "interest3.html" that reflects the "My Interests" heritage of the site). A précised version (just the software reviews) of every single newsletter can be read on-line. After 14 continuous years, and 584 editions, newsletters stopped in April 2011.
In April 1998 the CFS domain name was created (completelyFREEsoftware.com) though initially it was hosted in Australia and the connection was painfully slow. We quickly moved the site to the US and a fast connection for everyone. From that time forward we could dispense with cumbersome addresses like http://www.terrigal.net.au/~grahamp/interest.html#software (our original address, later mirrored on OzEmail, GeoCities and Tripod).
Since getting our own domain name we have resisted the temptation to have other sites mirror CFS. Even though there have been many offers, I decided to retain 100% control of what is published under the CFS banner.
freeware CDs & facelifts
Later that year (1998) we started the first of a series of freeware CDs, ultimately producing 14 numbered "Master Freeware Collection" CDs and one special "Games Fun Pak" CD. Unfortunately, those CDs are no longer available.
The site went through a major facelift in May 1999, and another in April 2004. Minor changes are made constantly but I do not like to make too many major changes. I believe this helps keep our regular visitors feeling "at home" with the site like putting on a pair of comfortable old shoes. My policy has always been to offer the simplest possible design so that new visitors do not have too much trouble learning how to navigate the site. I consider speed and easy access more important than fancy eye candy.
an "intro" page animation from the late 1990s
Below is an early animation for an "intro" page an entirely black page with this animation appearing in the center of the screen. This animation was used in 1997 and 1998. It started with the "Pssst" frame when you went to the CFS site:
Originally this "opening page" image didn't loop it simply stopped at the final frame and you clicked on the CFS name (the image) to access the site (click on it and see for yourself). When this was created, animated GIF intro images were popular, though most weren't as elaborate as this CFS one.
income advertising & CD sales
Since it started, the site had survived through advertising initially just enough to pay for the Internet connection and site hosting, but later enough to pay a small stipend (no one ever gets rich listing free software!). As a freelance journalist (most recently writing software reviews for a major Australian newspaper) I felt qualified to conduct the software reviews for CFS, but this freeware hobby (as it was back in 1996) was now consuming all of my time. I ceased doing freelance software reviews for other people and concentrated on running CFS.
In its peak as an advertiser supported, free access site, CFS was receiving well over 15,000 unique visitors each day about half a million every month and we were delivering more than 60,000 pages of information every day to those visitors. At that time advertising revenue was paying the bills, but the Dot.Com bubble burst in 2001 and our income steadily declined. During this period of low income the number of daily visitors was at its peak and the cost for the bandwidth was crippling us financially. We had a dedicated server in the USA that was a big drain on our meagre income.
Sales of the freeware CDs was the only thing keeping the site from closing, but that too started to wane during 2002 as people became cautious about spending money over the Internet due to the bad press it was receiving at that time. Also at that time was the upsurgence of global terrorism which was commanding everyone's attention. While people are watching the unfolding news on television they are not visiting Internet sites!
CFS now hosts over 2,400 programs, many hundreds of which are available nowhere else, and others are only available from very slow servers (specially in Eastern Europe) or from free hosting sites with very restrictive daily download limits. We offer these programs from a very fast, US-based server.
CFS only hosts programs for one of the following reasons:
With the last point (3) we usually retain the author's link and host a copy of the program in tandem our visitors still have a choice to get it from the author, if they can, instead of getting a copy from CFS. As our copy will not necessarily be the latest version, it is usually better to try and get a copy from the author's site. You will often see the following icon and the text link CFS download at the end of a program's description, indicating that the author's link is still available and we have just added a CFS download link.
- Lost Program the author's site has disappeared (we check all links regularly);
- Status Change the program has changed its status from freeware to shareware (we can often host our archived copy of the free version); or
- Tandem Download there are problems downloading from the author's site (the site is not in English, the site is extremely slow, we receive complaints that the hosting service has blocked downloads, etc), or we can offer an ad-free version not now available from the author.
Above: An example of a tandem link
Very addictive Chinese boardgame; features 4 tilesets, 6 layouts, displays elapsed time & possible moves, optional background image, sound effects, high scores, choice of user (stats are displayed for each user), etc. Requires VB4 runtime files.
Above: An example of a CFS hosted program
I hope you can spend the time to browse CFS and find software you never thought existed. It is an exciting site!
Graham Pockett, Founder & Editor
Completely FREE Software
Hardware and software used by CFS
Please note that this list will change from time to time. We shall endeavor to keep it as up-to-date as possible.
Hardware on the main CFS test computer includes...
- GigaByte (S-Series) GA-P35-DS3 motherboard
- Intel Core 2 Duo (E6300) 2.8GHz CPU
- 4GB 800MHz (DDR2) RAM
- Seagate Barracuda 7200:11 (ST31500341AS) 3GB/s 7200rpm SATA 1.5TB internal HDD
- Western Digital "My Book Essential Edition" (10EAVS) 1TB USB external HDD
- LG Flatron E2441V-BN LCD Monitor 24-inch widescreen LCD LED monitor
- GeForce GT220 1GB DDR2 (GigaByte GV-N220D2-1GI) PCI Express x16 videocard
- Multimedia 101-key US keyboard
- Logitech M515 cordless mouse
- LG GH20NS10 Super Multi double-layer 20x DVD/CD Rewriter (SATA)
- Firewire PCI card
- Logitech R-10 desktop speakers
- Various USB flash drives (for backups)
Software we use includes...