January 22, 2004 12:31 PM PST

Software makers patch Zip tiff

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Two specialty software makers have patched up a dispute that threatened to undermine the popular Zip file compression format.

Wisconsin-based PKWare, the company that created and published the Zip standard, announced late Wednesday that it is including its new SecureZip security extension in the code it provides to other software makers that license the Zip format, including its main competitor, Connecticut-based WinZip.

For more than a decade, Zip has been the most common format for shrinking files to more easily store or transmit them over the Internet. Dozens of software programs, including tools built into recent versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system, can read and decompress any file bearing the .zip extension.

As previously reported, however, the new security features have threatened to unravel the ubiquity of the Zip format by creating incompatible files. PKWare initially kept its encryption technology secret. WinZip responded by developing its own security code. The upshot has been that secure files created with one program can't be opened by another, even though they use the same .zip file extension as unencrypted files.

Analysts and other software makers said the incompatibility threatened to weaken already declining support for the Zip format, which has become less necessary as high-speed broadband Internet connections and capacious hard drives have lessened the need for file compression.

Steve Crawford, chief marketing officer for PKWare, said the company worked with WinZip to address the compatibility issue and came up with an agreement under which WinZip will incorporate SecureZip into future products. PKWare, meanwhile, will support WinZip's security format in its free PKZip Reader software for opening Zip files.

"Moving towards a single interoperable standard is really the right thing for both companies," Crawford said. "Really what we're trying to do here is grow the pie. We're looking at how can we leverage this huge installed base of Zip solutions that are out there...to make this a format for exchanging documents securely."

 

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