Shareware Beach

Thursday, 21 July 2005

Vector Capital Acquires WinZip

Filed under: Shareware Industry — Jan @ 11:11

One of the worlds best-known shareware products, WinZip, has been acquired by a venture capital company. I hope Nico Mak & Co. got a lot of money for their baby.

However, like Tom Warfield, I’m not so sure that Vector Capital’s plans will go smoothly. WinZip has been true shareware since it was first released, relying entirely on the honor system to collect money. As most shareware authors know, that system doesn’t work very well in a world where most users have no idea about the effort takes to produce even a relatively simple tool like WinZip.

Tom points out that this acquisition is an opportunity for WinZip’s competitors. It’s indeed quite likely that people who have been using WinZip beyond the trial period will look at alternatives if they suddenly find themselves forced to pay.

However, there’s another risk. File compression is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Most software these days is distributed in self-extracting setups. No zip tool needed. Hard disks get larger by the minute, and can easily hold a lifetime of data. DVD writers are becoming standard issue, and the discs are very cheap. And for really large stuff, like movies, you need tailored algorithms like mpeg rather than zip for compression.

Email is probably the only reason to use a zip tool, particularly for people with slow connections. However, if there’s suddenly no popular free zip tool, it won’t be long before most email clients have built-in zip and unzip capabilities.

Still, WinZip’s biggest competitor is WinZip itself. The version I’m using dates from the previous millenium. It’s unlikely I’ll ever upgrade to anything else, since it does all I need. It’ll be hard for WinZip’s new owners to convince the people using an older version beyond its trial period to download a newer version that expires.


  1. Worth mentioning too is 7-zip, a free shell extension which not only handles ZIP files, but also BZ2 and its own LZMA algorithm which is staggeringly good at compressing, and is open source too. Even 7-zip’s ZIP compresser tends to beat WinZIP. I believe Nullsoft’s installer uses LZMA in its installer too. It’s definitely worth a look; it’s now among the first things I install on a brand new Windows box!

    Comment by Matt Godbolt — Monday, 25 July 2005 @ 5:54

  2. I agree with your comments regarding the popularity of Winzip. Note that it may not the product or technology that was purchased but the name and goodwill. Winzip is one of the very few software companies with a Google PR of 9. Additionally the term “winzip” is almost synonymous with file compression. If this venture capital group is smart they’ll come up with a way to leverage the website, name and goodwill. I hope Nico made a fortune.

    Comment by Ed Trujillo — Friday, 29 July 2005 @ 23:07

  3. Of course it’s all about the brand and its popularity, and not about the technology. There are a lot of compression programs out there that have equal or better technology that I presume could be bought far cheaper, because they aren’t popular at all. The risk for the buyer is that much of that popularity is based on the incorrect belief that the product is essentially free.

    Comment by Jan Goyvaerts — Saturday, 30 July 2005 @ 8:19

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.