Winamp 2.95 didn't need to connect to the internet, there is no background service, no application manager bloatware, no ads or music recommendations, and it loads in 1/10 of a second without any startup service or preloader. It really whipped the llama's ass.
Straight up win32 software back then just was simpler, and the programmers back then like Justin Frankel, Ludvig Strigeus, etc. cared about program efficiency. A single programmer could write several popular applications within the decade, and now every application needs a giant team. What happened?
Expectations, I guess? You need to have a shiny UI, smooth animations and cross-platform.
I wrote a small media player back in 2009 called "SmallTune", using Delphi and only Win32 calls. It didn't have the VCL and SysUtils and all that stuff. It utilized BASS.dll and the exe was 230kb in size. It used ~3 MB of RAM. Some screenshots can be found using archive.org . It featured a simple library and internet radio.
But boy, was that one hell of maintenance. I dropped the project some months later, because of my girlfriend (I was another person back then). Recently, when I found the source by accident, I started building a Win32 application using .NET Core 3.1 and CoreRT out of curiousity. To my surprise, it worked quite well. I don't know, maybe I'll revive Smalltune some day. I miss it sometimes.
Acceleration of the following:
- commodification of information on the internet
- the subscription model
- incentives for tracking users' every move
Nothing like fragging your friends while playing loud music but able to skip a song if it doesn't fit the moment, all without even flipping active window. Never looked at another player because of this function.
Just had to adapt with ctrl+shift+B for next song since S was hard bound in some game.
Marketing. It has become extremely difficult to be found by a large audience on the internet. There are many gatekeepers who want their share before they allow you to become visible to the audience they control.
You can't make money out of shareware, so now everything is SaaS. This makes software way harder to write since now you're responsible for a distributed platform, including devops.
Competition is fierce now. There are very low barriers to entry, which made hobbyist projects (which is what Winamp would be considered now) mostly free.
If there's any money left in those low-barrier markets monopolies expanded into them. The only way to compete with them is with added value like a huge library of music (Spotify). Good luck trying to strike deals with record labels as a lone developer. VCs will devour any corner of opportunity in a blink, demanding growth, which will turn a perfectly fine piece of software into a feature-crept SaaS privacy-invading social platform.
TL;DR: money isn't in software anymore for self-employed people.
Do we know how sales of Reaper are doing? That's Justin Frankel's latest project, and it's shareware in the truest sense (downloadable, 5 second nag screen & no other limitations - "you are on day 329 of your 30 day trial period").
Of course, Justin probably doesn't need the income because he has Winamp/AOL money, but I was under the impression that Reaper was at least providing a full time income. And it's certainly supported by most of the music hardware/software industry.
Just look at Bitwarden. It started out as a free and truly secure answer to password managers that were cross-platform and web/browser-based, but had issues with trust and privacy. A lone developer put his money where his mouth was, and built the product up into a SaaS that is now a small but profitable company. It’s now the fastest growing password manager out there, and certainly one of the more popular among techs.
That counts towards the parent comment's thesis, not against it. If it wasn't a SaaS charging would be much harder.
This is mixing two concerns: Selling stand-alone applications and the specific shareware distribution model.
The SaaS world is struggling with the "freemium" model, too. Nothing pretty much changed there, you get your nag-screens, limited features etc.
Selling apps still works for a lot of people. Sure, it's harder when there's a popular free version available, but the same is true for SaaS again.
One major issue is the pernicious "growth" mindset: Today it's often not enough to earn some decent money, you have to "found" something. And sure, it's friggin' hard to grow a company out of a shareware product.