Once upon a time when the web was young and trustworthy sites for downloading Windows software were hard to find, TUCOWS emerged and quickly became a top destination for folks looking for the latest versions of freeware and shareware applications, eventually adding support for Linux, Mac and a handful of other operating systems.

Nearly 3 decades after first launching though, Tucows has pivoted to become a domain registrar, wholesale domain name seller, and the company behind the Ting Internet fiber optic service.

One thing that isn’t really a big part of the Tucows business anymore? Hosting downloadable freeware and shareware. So the company has announced that it’s retiring Tucows Downloads.

Tucows homepage in 1998 (via The Internet Archive)

At this point the company says the website is old, difficult to maintain, and vulnerable to security risks if Tucows didn’t actively expend the effort to keep it updated… which would draw resources away from the company’s other businesses.

Much of the software hosted by Tucows Download was also old and dated at this point, and there are plenty of other places to more up-to-date Windows app downloads, including:

But if you’re feeling nostalgic and want to scroll through the old Tucows downloads section, it’s alive and well in the Tucows Software Library at the Internet Archive, with more than 32 thousand applications available for download, most of which appear to have been uploaded to Tucows between 1993 and 2004.

via Hacker News

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  1. Friday, 22-January-2021, 19:30 EST. Tucows Retiring!? Pfffft… The Tucows homepage literally says this: “Making the Internet better. Join the herd! We’re hiring all across North America and Europe.” Yeah, Moo you.

  2. I used to work there back in the day. From 1999 to early 2001. It was a fun job, but paid poorly.
    I do miss the good times I had there with my coworkers. Especially when we’d finish up early and play Quake 2 against each other instead of working.

    I’d also like to apologize for the Linux Themes section that existed back then being such a pile of crap. I was told to do it, and knew it was a dumb idea, but I created scripts that autogenerated all of them from the existing backgrounds of the Windows Themes section of the site.

  3. Oh, wow! And Tucows was such a resource and a common Google/Bing/AltaVista result of searching for a software tool.
    I hope that they give it a years-notice and public alternatives.

  4. Wow, nostalgia. I remember downloading a bunch of freeware/shareware from Tucows when I still had 28.8 kbit/s dial-up and coveted that 56k modem.

  5. I think it’s more accurate to say “has retired”. None of the google links work anymore.

  6. Software like this was very popular until Microsoft killed Windows XP. After the Windows 8 and Vista fiascos, the WinTel PC lost market share to Smartphones, MacBooks and Chromebooks. Even my favorite small computer shops in East Asia stopped selling refurbished PCs and freeware/shareware/bootleg software on CDs and DVDs. These shops were very popular 10 years ago, but now they’re selling clothes and kitchen goods instead of computer stuff.

    1. Tl;dr: that’s not how I remember it.
      I don’t think the overwhelming use of phones is the result of consumer backlash, really just seems to be phones reaching a very very large segment of the market that had previously found PCs to be impractical, unavailable, or difficult, while at the same time internet access continued to expand, and at the same time, people became obliged to carry a smartphone whether they had a PC or not.
      After Vista’s compatibility issues, a lot of people just kept using XP until 7 showed up.
      I mean, windows 8 was basically a phone OS. It might have been better received if Microsoft had distributed it as a companion to, or alternate version of, windows 7 (like calling it windows 7X), instead of asserting that windows 7 was obsolete and everyone has to do things this way now, which of course annoyed everyone who liked how windows 7 worked.
      I keep find contradictory statistics on desktop operating systems.
      According to some articles macs really haven’t gained in market share in the long run, they were at 19.2% in 1990 and were at 7.6% in 2019, although they did gain ground shortly after windows 8 (13.4% in 2014). On the other handfrom user agent string counts, Mac OS has been increasing and is now at 17%. Talk of chromebooks is that they’re moving a lot of units and everyone should prepare for a total takeover, and like at around maybe a third of new laptops featured here are chromebooks, yet chromeos is at 1.7%. I don’t know what exactly is driving that; I suspect it’s still mostly schools buying them in bulk for cheap (you can see dips in usage every summer!) and maybe google has been subsidizing manufacturing costs. Chromeos didn’t really have much appeal to windows users running from windows 8 until it got the ability to run linux applications, and that didn’t seem to happen until 2018.
      I guess it depends on how you measure market share, if you mean “market share of sales this year” or “market share of use this year”. Personally I think use better reflects opinions on operating systems since, outside of ARM devices, it’s generally possible to switch without buying new hardware.
      But phones are just fundamentally different, since you can pocket them, use them anywhere, call phone numbers on them, and they consume very little power, but interacting with them is often a lot slower. You may be able to not own a PC, but even if you own a PC you’re still obliged to own a phone.

      1. I agree, and would add that there are lots of places where it’s really hard to buy a computer, and while a mid-range smartphone it’s about the same price as a bottom line computer, through carriers and their different offerings, one doesn’t have to pay it up front. So a phone is somehow affordable and like you said, basically is obligatory to own one (specially since it’s getting more complicated to buy a good quality “dumb” phone, but that’s another subject).

    2. After the dotcom bubble burst it wasn’t possible to make enough money off banner ads on the site to support the staff.
      I remember very vividly a meeting with Scott and he asked us, and I’m not kidding, “Does anyone have any ideas on how we can make money?”
      They layed off half the employees in our office, so I left shortly after that and the office only lasted until later in 2001. I believe after that they ran things with some sort of skeleton crew in Toronto, but I’m not too sure.