why do only some wifi tether apps require root?

I'm asking mostly for knowledge- I'm rooted on the e4gt w/ jb goodness. My boss was looking to wifi tether on his wife's phone w/out rooting and he found an app that does it claiming that no root is required. Why have apps traditionally required rooting for this (if this is true and not a false belief of mine) and what is the difference between wifi tethering apps with and w/out root? Thank you.

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