Friday, December 02, 2011

How does the .zip survive?

It is a funny thing that anyone today uses zip format. Most of today file formats like office files, pictures, music and video are efficient enough that zip has nearly no effect on them. Also, communication and storage is efficient enough that no one should bother for some gains in file size.

And it is bother to use zip, though Microsoft did something to improve zip usability in Windows and make it more folder like. But even in Windows it is clearly not the same like other folders (you can't see thumbnails in it, Recycle bin is not supported, only most important commands from context menu are supported). And to use files in most applications, extraction is required (e.g. Picasa won't show you the pics in your zip).

So, how then zip survived? Well, there is one common workflow where zip is still useful. It is downloading pack of files from web. Unfortunately, it is not possible to download them as a folder, and zip does the trick. But is it really necessary to do such thing?

Well, I can think of solution from client side. Web browser downloads zip files, but before doing virus scan, it unpacks the zip into folder and deletes the zip file. So user is tricked that he actually downloaded folder.

On the other hand there is probably some server side solution. As it is possible to download folder using ftp protocol, there might be some server workaround for this. Though, as millions of sites already use zip to send folders, I guess first solution would be much more effective immediately.

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