In the mid 1990s the internet was a very different place. There was no Google. There was no Facebook and “app stores” did not exist.
If you wanted to find software to do something you’d often end up on shareware download sites like TUCOWS – The Ultimate Collection of Winsock Software.
A lot of us who first went online in the 1990s probably spent a lot of time on the main Tucows site or one of its mirrors. Over time the collection of software grew, but also the company behind it changed as well. These days Tucows is known to most people either as a domain name registrar or the owner of a mobile operator and ISP in the US market. The download site was still online though. It’s only this week that the company finally put it out to pasture.
Tucows’ CEO Elliot Noss left a a farewell note that any visitors to the download site will find:
All good things…
We have made the difficult decision to retire the Tucows Downloads site. We’re pleased to say that much of the software and other assets that made up the Tucows Downloads library have been transferred to our friends at the Internet Archive for posterity.
The shareware downloads bulletin board system (BBS) that would become Tucows Downloads was founded back in 1993 on a library computer in Flint, MI. What started as a place for people in the know to download software became the place to download software on the burgeoning Internet. Far more quickly than anyone could have imagined.
A lot has changed since those early years. Tucows has grown and evolved as a business. It’s been a long time since Tucows has been TUCOWS, which stood for The Ultimate Collection of Winsock Software.
Today, Tucows is the second-largest domain name registrar in the world behind Go Daddy and the largest wholesaler of domain names in the world with customers like Shopify and other global website builder platforms. Hover offers domain names and email at retail to help people brand their life online. OpenSRS (and along the way our acquisitions of Enom, Ascio and EPAG) are the SaaS platforms upon which tens of thousands of customers have built their own domain registration businesses, registering tens of millions of domains on behalf of their customers. Ting Internet is building fiber-optic networks all over the U.S. At the same time, we’re building the Mobile Services Enabler SaaS platform that is powering DISH’s entry into the US mobile market.
Point is, we’re keeping busy.
For the past several years, history, well sentimentality, has been the only reason to keep Tucows Downloads around. We talked about shutting the site down before. Most seriously in 2016 when instead, we decided to go ad-free, keeping the site up as a public service.
Today is different. Tucows Downloads is old. Old sites are a maintenance challenge and therefore a risk. Maintaining the Tucows Downloads site pulls people away from the work that moves our businesses forward.
Tucows Downloads has had an incredible run. Retiring it is the right move but that doesn’t alter the fact that it will always hold a special place in hearts and our story. We’re thankful to the thousands of software developers who used Tucows Downloads to get their software in front of millions of people, driving billions of downloads over more than 25 years.
It makes sense to shutter the service. It’s no longer needed and the company has evolved.
However that doesn’t make it any less sad in some respects as we bid farewell to another part of our digital past. I have fond memories of exploring the site and downloading all sorts of useful and often totally useless bits of software that cluttered up my hard drive (back when hard drives were tiny!).