Zamzar is 10 Years Young

We’re celebrating our birthday here at Zamzar HQ – ten years ago today we launched the Zamzar website with a simple mission:

convert all the files.png

Things were very different ten years ago. In Internet years that’s like 8 centuries …

A potted history of 2006

Cast your mind back to 2006 …

  • The INTERWEBS™ was a small and barren wasteland with *only* 75 million websites online (there are 1.4 billion now)

We were about here on this graph:

netcraft

  • Twttr was 1 Tweet strong:

 

  • The iPhone didn’t exist yet (WAT!) – all the cool kids were using Motorola Razr’s. The, er, not-so-cool ones had Palm Treo 700’s.

     

  • Dropbox was about to get flamed on Hacker News as “not very viral or income-generating” and Facebook’s only users were Mark and his mum [1].
  • ICanHasCheezburger hadn’t been invented (NO LOLCATS !), and the most popular meme of the year was a sneezing panda:

Launching Zamzar

It was into this primordial Internet soup that Zamzar was born. Most of the 9 months of intensive development time for such a key pillar of the Internet was spent on logo design
logo-drawings(obviously the key facet for any budding “web 2.0” service).

We’ve included the best of the bunch for your delectation – extra marks for spotting the malformed sheep motif. Graphic design was not our strongest asset at the time.

Despite the shameful attempts at back-of-a-beermat logo design Michael Arrington covered the launch at TechCrunch, Wired and Lifehacker both jumped onboard with very positive articles, the BBC gave Zamzar glowing reviews and Robert Scoble (he of Google Glass fame) liked what he saw.

The vogue for launching “web 2.0” applications into (seemingly perperobert_scoble_quotetual) beta at the time led Zamzar to be included in the Museum of Modern Betas a fascinating historical record of every-man-and-his-dog’s attempt to jump on the web 2.0 bandwagon.

The “museum” is still charting new beta launches to this day, and Zamzar has the privilege of rating as number 2 on the list of most popular betas of all time (just behind Flickr).

Launching Zamzar was primarily an exercise in “scratching our own itch” in developing software which allowed us to view, edit and save files in as wide a variety of formats as possible, without needing to have every version of every application ever made. We’re thrilled that this turned out to be a useful solution for others too.

Running Zamzar

We’re proud to have run Zamzar as a bootstrapped and profitable web business for 10 years now. If time on the Internet was calculated in dog years (which it should be) we’d be 65 years old.

During that time we’ve:

The fact that we’vemake-something-people-want never taken VC-funding (despite being courted on numerous occasions), allows us to keep focussed squarely on making our products better for our customers.

This is our number one goal, one which is shamelessly stolen from Paul Graham & Y-Combinator – Make something people want.

The Future

Our plan is to keep building products and services which you will love. Products that make handling and using file formats easier for everyone, whether they are new to the world of computers or a seasoned developer.

City urban street art, Shoreditch, East London.We recently launched a file conversion API capable of converting thousands of different file formats right from the command line or inside your own mobile or web application.

We’ll be making this service even better, improving the design and features on our main file conversion website, integrating with a whole bunch of other file-related services, building out some exciting new products (including a self-driving car powered by Word Doc macros) and much more.

If you’ve used Zamzar over these last 10 years then *thankyou*. It has been an honour and a privilege to convert your files.

Here’s to the next 10 years!

Chris & Mike Whyley,
Co-Founders @ Zamzar.


[1] Almost. Actually Facebook had 12 million users, but most were probably Mark’s shell accounts.

Use Zamzar to convert files from your Desktop !

We’re excited to announce that we just launched three new applications which allow you to convert files right on your desktop !

  • Dropbox Converter – Convert files to various formats directly within your Dropbox account.
  • Hot Folders – Monitor folders on your desktop & automatically convert files to other formats.
  • Zamzar Bash – Convert files directly from the command line.

zamzar-apps

Using the Zamzar API

These apps all build on top of our powerful file conversion API which allows you to bake file conversion into your application using a tiny amount of code and  a simple REST API. Our API supports the conversion of 100’s of formats and is cloud-based to scale with your needs, whether you’re converting 1 file or 100,000.

We have made the source code for all these applications publicly available, so you can grab it, and build your own apps and tools on top of it (for both commercial and personal use).

Thanks to Michael Walsh and Joe Anderson for their efforts in developing the code for the Dropbox Converter and Hot Folders respectively, building on their initial efforts at our York University Hack Day.

Happy (desktop) converting,
The Zamzar Team.

Building a file conversion app in a day

We recently challenged students at the University of York to participate in a one-day hackathon. Their remit was simple: design and build a file conversion app that uses the Zamzar API . A few hours later, the students demoed their six fantastic applications, and the winning apps were announced.

What did the students build? Who won? Read on to find out…

The Apps

In most cases, students opted to solve a problem that they had faced themselves. This was immediately apparent from the first app, GIF-T, which turns a bevy of related photos into a short montage video and wraps it up with a (virtual!) bow and gift tag. When we asked about the inspiration for their app, the developers stated that they had grown tired of receiving hundreds of similar photos from weddings, birthdays, or particularly infamous trips to their local pub. Powered by the image-to-video conversions provided by the Zamzar API, the developers of GIF-T were able to build a simple prototype and wireframes for their final application in just a few hours.

IMG_0653

Three of the applications focused on making file conversion extremely straightforward for everyone. These included a Dropbox plug-in which allowed “hot folders” to be used for automatically converting files from one format to another, a browser plug-in for converting archive files from unusual formats (we’re looking at you WinRAR) to something more commonplace, and a UNIX command for converting files as part of a shell script.

Meanwhile, a trio of students experimented with combining file conversion with natural language processing in their automated illustrator app. The goal here was to analyse a story (in plaintext), use an image search engine to select appropriate illustrations for the story, and combine the end result into an eBook using the Zamzar API. The developers demonstrated their application using Alice in Wonderland as a source text.

IMG_0650

The final app was the excellent and bewildering Cat Meme Generator, which combined Web 3.o design sensibilities with the ability to generate cat-related memes. We’re not quite sure why this app exists, but we’re glad that it does.

IMG_0655

 

The Winners

Although we were thoroughly impressed with everybody’s efforts, we awarded prizes to our favourite three apps:

The plucky winners took home prizes, and we came away thoroughly impressed with how much can be achieved with a few hours work. We’ll be releasing the source code from some of these applications in the coming days on our GitHub repo so you can extend and reuse the code in your own applications.


If you fancy replicating the successes of the University of York students, why not sign up for a free Zamzar API account today?

 

How to write and publish an e-book

e-book concept design, vector illustration eps10 graphicWith the advent of e-books anyone can now be a best selling author. No longer do you need to beg a publishing house to take you on. Those days are long gone. Self Publishing means it now takes around four minutes for the words on your page to be accessible to anyone around the world.

One success story is Mark Dawson who has sold over 300,000 copies of his crime series and regularly returns yearly revenue in the six figures.

So what are the steps involved in successfully publishing an e-book?

 

Step One – Write!

typewriterAll writers are faced with the tyranny of the blank page but writing regularly and churning out words is something you just have to go through. You don’t need to download a fancy programme to write. A simple word document (.doc, or docx) is fine – you can Zamzar it at a later date to put it into the right format.

Some writers aim to write a certain amount of words every single day whilst others prefer to write when they are inspired. Find out what works for you and then get into a routine and stick to it.

Whatever route you go down you have to get the words onto the page, unless you plan on releasing a book like this.

 

Step Two – Design your Cover

 

Almost as important as the content you write is the cover you design. To stand any chance of your book being downloaded it has to stand out. Amazon has over four million self published titles for users to download to their Kindle and so with competition that fierce you need to grab the shoppers’ eye. If you are not blessed with a paintbrush then you can use a service such as 99designs to get a professional looking cover done for little money.

bookshelf

All you need to do is create a spec for what you  want the designers to create – include your favourite existing titles, and styles that you like – and set a price for how much you are willing to pay. Designers then put designs together and you pick your favourite. The great thing about 99Designs is you can give designers feedback so that they can tweak their designs to meet your needs and at the end of it all if you don’t like any of the designs then you don’t pay!

At the lower end of the price bracket is a service like Fiverr where you can pick up a design for $5. But, as you might suspect, designs can be very hit and miss so do your research and find a designer on Fiverr who comes highly recommended and produces designs that catch your eye.

Depending on where you are publishing your book, your book cover will have to be in a certain format. We’ve got you covered as you can convert any of your images into the required image format.

 

Step Three – Pick the right self publishing tool

 

Pick the right self publishing tool for you and this means you may want to consider cost and ease of creating the book, distribution and finally how much of a cut do  you get when you make a sale.  There are two types of publishing channels available to you – single channel and multiple channel – and you need to decide which of the above criteria is most important to you as you pick your preferred publishing channel.

Antique printing press

Single channel distribution is as it suggests – distribution via one retailer via one device. For example, Kindle Direct Publishing for Amazon Picking this option allows you to retain almost total control of your book, and its profits, and you can generally produce a book cheaply but the onus will then be on you to try and sell it and get momentum. Single Channel is also best for those who like the DIY side of creating a book – i.e. creating your cover and formatting the book yourself. It is also the route taken by those who write novels and whose books contain text only, rather than a bunch of images. If you’re creating a book that’s packed full of multimedia then you may want to consider heading down the multiple channel route.

Multiple channel is best summed up as a middle man who pushes your work out via various channels. So you write the book, upload it to a site (or create it on the site using their editors) like Smashwords, LuLu, Blurb or BookBaby and then your book is pushed out to multiple retailers. However, you tend to have to pay either an upfront fee or give away a large slice of your book to these multiple channel distributors. Multiple channel is often recommended if you are feeling somewhat overwhelmed at the thought of having to format and convert your own book. If instead, you want a nice tool that allows you to drop text and images into pages from a template then this could be the solution for you. Multiple channel is also especially good if you have special layout requirements or there’s various multimedia being used. For example, if you’re creating a coffee table book full of pictures then a service like Blurb would probably be best for you. This CNET article takes you through the pros and cons of all the different multiple channel publishers if that’s the route you are leaning towards.

 

Step Four – Convert your file

 

No matter what service you decide to use it needs to be in the correct format. The three most common formats for e-books are EPUB, MOBI and PDF. You can use Zamzar to convert your word document into any of these formats, or any other e-book format. EPUB is considered the global standard for e-books and works on almost any device as it is an open e-book file format. MOBI is the format that is ideal for the Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks. For a full list of e-book formats head over to our file format pages where there’s a more in-depth appraisal of all of your e-book file format options.

zamzar

 

Step Five – Format your book

 

CMYK poster

Formatting your e-book is key. There’s nothing worse than someone downloading a book of yours only for the formatting to be skewed, words spelt incorrectly or a whole chapter missing!

Use a tool such as Calibre to format your book after you have converted it. If you’ve decided to head down the multiple  channel route then you’ll find that some publishers such as blurb have a built in editor that you can use.

 

Step Six – Publish and then get to work!

 

So you’ve written your book, created your cover, gone through all the different publishing options, converted your work into the right format and then checked that you’ve not accidentally omitted a key chapter; you’d think that’d be you done right? Wrong! Depending on the ambitions you have for your book the really hard work starts now and that is the marketing you have to do to make sales.

As we said earlier there are four million e-books on the Kindle platform alone. So it’s hard, really hard, to stand out from the crowd. Some people will update their Facebook status and send out a couple of tweets and think that’s all the promotion they need. But for you to make serious money from your book then you need to create a website,Website.jpg which you can do via a service like Wix or SquareSpace. One self published author, Ben Galley, said of a website “Some people survive off Twitter or a blog, but you need an online presence. Most people who buy your book want to find out more about you and they can’t find that from your Twitter feed,” he says. “A website is a sales platform, it’s a marketing platform and it’s a global presence if you do it right.”

Next, identify all the key people (bloggers, journalists and people of influence) within the genre that your book sits within and approach them. Remember to make the pitch personal [avoid calling them the wrong name!] and punchy – make it stand out from the crowd. Maybe offer them a free or discounted book and try and offer them something in return, for example, offer them a guest blog post for their site and maybe share their works on your website. Get creative. Ultimately if you want your book to gain momentum it needs to get a groundswell of support and therefore needs good reviews which are only likely if people of influence are talking about it.

Run giveaway competitions. For example you may want to give away your book for free to the first 1000 people who share it or review it. Again, creativity will win the day here but the more you can get people to talk about your book the greater chance you have of it being a success. Fifty Shades of Grey began as a simple free PDF that gained momentum like a runaway train – in the UK E.L. James, the author, has sold more books than J.K.  Rowling. 

Hashtag gold medal athlete takes a selfie in front of the colorful Selaron Steps in Rio de Janeiro, BrazilFinally, when you use social media  – and you should use it extensively – and partake in forums don’t just spam users. Users will spot a spammer and probably go out of their way to submit negative reviews or press which can ultimately kill your book.

Instead, engage in conversation, play the long game. It’s an awful lot of work and there’s no quick way to success but  given you’ve already slaved away on the book a few more months of hard work makes sense.

As you can see publishing your own book has never been easier, but publishing a successful book still requires lots of hard graft and a little luck.

dave eggers quote

Happy Writing!
The Zamzar Team.

Announcing the file conversion API

We’re delighted to officially announce our brand new file conversion API which allows you to integrate file conversions into your apps and projects using a simple REST-based API – check it out now at https://developers.zamzar.com.

1,100+ conversions !

 
File conversion API formatsThe API is launching today with support for 1,100+ different conversions, so whether you need to convert documents such as WordPerfect or MS Publisher into PDFs, videos into animated GIFs or PSD’s into JPG’s we can help. Check out the full list of formats at https://developers.zamzar.com/formats – we support documents, images, videos, audio, eBooks, compressed & CAD files.

 

Simple to use

 
We have designed the API to be simple to use with comprehensive documentation, code samples and support direct from the development team so that you can get up and running quickly – perform complex file conversions in just a few lines of code.

Try it now ! Just copy and paste this code to get a list of all available API formats:

curl https://api.zamzar.com/v1/formats -u GiVUYsF4A8ssq93FR48H:

 

Production ready

 
File conversion API Our services are cloud-based so we can meet your conversion demands, whether you are converting 1 file or 10,000.

The API can scale with your needs, so if your app or website needs a huge burst of file conversions we can handle it, seamlessly.

 

Free to test

 
Signup for a free file conversion API accountGet up and running in minutes by signing up for a free API account (no payment needed), and start converting files immediately.

You can use your test account to convert files for free whilst you are evaluating the API.

Get started now

Happy Developing !
The Zamzar Team.


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Zamzar and Heartbleed

TL;DR: We’re happy to report that after auditing our services Zamzar has not been affected by the Heartbleed vulnerability. Read on for more info …

heartbleedTwo days ago on 7th April 2014 a major security vulnerability – CVE-2014-0160 (nicknamed “Heartbleed”) was announced.

This bug has the potential to affect any site which runs “secure” HTTPS traffic (usually identified by the little padlock you see in your web browser).

Current estimates put the number of affected sites at half a million, with renowned security expert Bruce Schneier calling it “Catastrophic” … On the scale of 1 to 10, this is an 11.

Our response

 
We run HTTPS services here at Zamzar for our business customers, as part of our efforts to keep your files and data secure, and were naturally concerned when we heard about this issue. We’re happy to report that after auditing our services Zamzar has not been affected by the Heartbleed vulnerability – We do run the software which can be affected (OpenSSL), but the version we run – 0.9.8 – does not have this bug.

We take our responsibilities to customers very seriously, which is why we conducted a full audit of our services on the same day that this bug was announced, on the 7th April 2014.

Other sites

 
If you use other services and software, please be aware that they could still be vulnerable to this issue – you can check whether they are by using a number of tools to test for the Heartbleed vulnerability (although, please make sure you have permission first):

Given the severity of this problem – passwords can be stolen, sessions hijacked, traffic and files spied upon – you should be asking the other websites you use what they are doing to fix the problem.

Patching your own sites

 
If you run your own web servers for customers you should check to make sure they are not vulnerable – If they are you should upgrade to a fixed version of OpenSSL as soon as possible by using your operating system’s package manager (e.g apt, yum or up2date) or by downloading and installing the latest release from OpenSSL.

Conclusions

 
We take the security of your data very seriously here at Zamzar, and will work hard to protect it on your behalf. If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other issue please do shoot us an email at info@zamzar.com.

Thanks,
The Zamzar Team.

Convert NEF files to JPG, PDF, PNG, TIFF and more

We’re always looking to add new conversions to our list of available formats and we can now add NEF to that list. You can now convert your NEF files to JPG, PDF, PNG and TIFF using Zamzar, online and for free !Convert NEF to JPG, PDF, PNG and TIFF

NEF (the Nikon Electronic Format) is a camera image format, developed as Nikon’s version of the RAW image format.

Raw image formats are intended to capture as closely as possible the characteristics of the scene being photographed, and to preserve as much detail as possible. The downside is that filesizes tend to be huge, and we want to make it as easy as possible to convert those RAW images into smaller, more portable image formats as quickly and easily as possible.

We’re pleased to announce you can use Zamzar’s free online tool to convert your NEF files to any of these formats – PNG and JPG probably offer the best compromise of quality vs filesize.

  • bmp – Windows bitmap
  • gif – Compuserve graphics interchange
  • jpg – JPEG compliant image
  • pcx – Paintbrush Bitmap Image
  • pdf – Portable Document Format
  • png – Portable Network Graphic
  • tga – Truevision Targa Graphic
  • tiff – Tagged image file format
  • wbmp – Wireless Bitmap File Format
  • webp – Lossily compressed image file

Happy converting,
The Zamzar Team.

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