A while ago, when I first released Rotated Windows, I used sitx or somesuch as the archive format. Someone complained – of course – so as a bit of a sarcastic riposte I also put up archives in every other format I could – zip, bz2, gzip, sit, arj, rar, etc. It was a laugh, I guess, and an interesting comparison of archive formats.

[Incidentally, I believe it was bzip2 that was the top performer. sitx did reasonably well, but I think has more overhead than zip or gzip formats, and consequently lost out to them on a piddly ~70k archive.]

And I was just reading this article here, which talks about a company called Neuros Audio soliciting feedback from the “hacker” community as to what direction they should take with their future product(s). They go on about how important it is to them to get involved with the hacker community, and how they’re using Linux 2.6 and uber-leet audiophile-worthy DAC/ADCs, etc… and then at the end there’s the note:

More details, including a downloadable 18-page Word document describing the current development board specification, can be found here.

Ummm… what? It’s a Word document… for a document supposedly aimed at Linux users. Duh.

So I thought… really, there’s always going to be someone complaining about the format, just as I found out myself with Rotated Windows. So why not provide a whole bunch of different formats? The immediate pessimistic response is because it makes the download process more convoluted – asking users to pick a format, when they may not really be aware of the differences between them or what their computer can work with.

But the optimist would say we just need better technology, that allows us to indicate which formats we prefer, and have the conversion performed – on the fly if possible – at the server end. If the conversion is done there (rather than using importers or conversion tools locally, which is difficult for many average users) it can be done properly – i.e. they can proof each differently formatted version to ensure the conversion went smoothly.

I call this very trademarkable idea Chameleon. In my mind the browser would maintain a list of preferred document formats for different MIME types, which it could submit to the server when requesting the files (or when otherwise prompted, if a 2-stage fetch is necessary). The server could then do what it could to work within that preference…

…I think it’s a sweet idea. A trivial demo would be to use php and ImageMagick to convert images on the fly to whatever format each user has previously stated they prefer. Beyond that you could use converters for different text formats, and then perhaps even more complex things like spreadsheets, databases, etc.

So if anyone makes their millions of this idea, don’t forget about me. ;)

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