Winzip is dead!

By on November 1, 2013

Nearly 10 years ago, the first application i would install after Windows is WinZip. Whenever I would reformat my hard drive and perform a clean install of Windows 98 – which was just about every six months – one of the first programs I’d reinstall was WinZip. It was a necessity because often times the other programs that I’d download or install were zipped, making WinZip an essential tool.

Granted, I never paid for WinZip. And neither did 99% of the people I know who also used it. Why would I, since it worked great without limitations for free? I think in later versions, it started making you wait longer and longer each time you opened up the user interface. But that was just a minor annoyance rather than a real obstacle. Yes, just like the Adobe Acrobat Reader, WinZip used to be quite an indispensable program. The big difference between them now is that Acrobat Reader is still relevant and useful.

When Windows XP was released in 2001, its Compressed Folder feature effectively killed WinZip. Suddenly, Windows users could zip and unzip files natively in the operating system; no need for a third party utility. How convenient! And just like that, it was the last time I ever really used WinZip – right around version 8.0 or 8.1. I can’t really say that I’ve missed it over the years, either, since zipping and unzipping files is now as easy as opening a folder. Just like I don’t miss rotary dial phones or TV rabbit ears.

Last week, I was working on one of the web servers at work, and I downloaded a zipped archive to the server’s desktop. When I double-clicked it to open it, I was surprised when WinZip opened up to unzip it for me. For a few seconds, it was like reuniting with an old friend. I was surprised that its installed version was now all the way up to 14.5; almost twice the age it was when I last used it. But as familiar as it appeared at the outset, closer examination revealed that this not the same jovial, handy program I remembered. No, this WinZip was mature, grumpy and bitter. It boldly proclaimed “WinZip IS NOT free software!” on its splash screen. And the “Continue” button was disabled, with a message next to it that basically told me that I would have to wait the same number of seconds to click it as the number of days since this program had been illegally installed. I watched the counter until it reached about 20, and then abruptly went to theTask Manager and killed the program. I had no idea who had installed it, why they installed it, or when they installed it – and I wasn’t going to waste any more time waiting to find out. Life is too short to put up with software with an attitude, so I promptly uninstalled WinZip from the machine. I figure if someone really needed it, they can reinstall it again.

I think my latest WinZip experience is pretty ironic. Now that the product is all but irrelevant in the marketplace, the developers have finally beefed it up and crippled it in an effort to make people register it and pay for it. Why didn’t they do that ten years ago when people really depended upon it and would have gladly paid a reasonable fee for the privilege of using it? With all of the open-source and baked-in alternatives available today, you’d think they’d be practically giving WinZip away for free, begging people to still use it. (“Please, please… buy a WinZip license! If you buy two or more, we’ll throw in gift certificates for free Starbucks drinks and movie rentals!”)

Movie rentals might be a bad choice of enticement, since “movie rentals” are an entirely different example of a business model that has ran its course. Perhaps that’s fodder for an article unto itself…

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