What Did You Do to FILExt?

Back when Microsoft was testing Windows XP Computer Knowledge had a single page of file extension listings. Many others had such lists as well but the CKnow list had some links to software vendors in it. Microsoft found that page and set things up so that when XP tried to open a file it did not know how to open it gave the user the option of choosing a local program or go to the Internet to find the answer. That Internet link took one to the Microsoft Windows Shell site where they were shown a link to the CKnow page (with a few options in smaller type below).

As usual, Microsoft gave no notice they were going to do this so one day I suddenly found my CKnow.com bandwidth heading rapidly toward the host maximums. I did not know why until one user was kind enough to use the contact form on the site to ask a question and that led to my realizing the XP beta was the cause of the bandwidth spike.

In a “make lemonade from lemons” moment, I spun that page off into a site of its own and FILExt.com was born. I went through several web hosts and a conversion from static HTML pages to a database format as XP grew in popularity. My biggest mistake was using a flat file database rather than a relational database as the flat file database structure made it difficult to make mass changes. The whole was kept in a Microsoft Access database on my system with ODBC connections to the MySQL server on the web host for updates.

Microsoft kept sending people to the site and in 2006 it reached a crest of pushing out almost three terabytes of data each month. With so many people coming to the site the submissions came in at a rapid rate so during this period the site grew and grew and grew with data both useful and obscure. 🙂

Eventually, the Access/ODBC data route became a PITA and using PHPMaker I was able to construct a Web-based interface to the MySQL database and drop the Access database entirely. That actually made it easier to maintain the site as I could do that from any computer, anywhere.

On the Ides of March (literally) in 2007 Microsoft dropped the hammer. Not wanting to sacrifice the number of eyeballs going to FILExt they broke the direct link to the site and redirected them to their store and search engine. But, by then, enough people knew of FILExt so that while traffic dropped drastically there were still enough people coming to the site to warrant keeping it up to date and adding even more data to the listings (e.g., Marco’s TrID data, Tony’s MIME data, and other things).

But, doing all this and keeping the submissions and data up to date was starting to take its toll on me. I’ll admit to being at an age where I could take full Social Security if I wanted and am helping my Mother (who will celebrate a centennial in a year) as well. I did not want to be tied to the computer all day and night which FILExt in its then-current form demanded. About that time, one of my major advertisers (Uniblue) had an executive touring the U.S. and he stopped by to say “hello” on his tour. After a very nice visit, as he was leaving, he mentioned that if I ever wanted to divest FILExt to let him know.

Given the situation, it was a short time after that I contacted him and we negotiated a transfer of FILExt from me to Uniblue. Only recently have they redesigned the site and put their name on it so I am now released from my non-disclosure agreement and can say that Uniblue is the new owner of FILExt and is fully responsible for it.

Their recent redesign has emphasized their products (as one would expect) but all the information in the FILExt database is still displayed in response to queries. Loyal users may have to look around a bit to find it but the data is there and Uniblue has assured me that they will keep up with data collection and maintenance — indeed, they have several people on the task instead of just me so the data should be better over time.

As for me, I’ll be working on CKnow.com and my personal site TomsDomain.comWeb Link and MissionTour.orgWeb Link (a tour of the California mission system I’ve been making) with the occasional post to what is really a test site: e-olio.comWeb Link. But, I will not be trying to build any of these sites into a blockbuster that’s going to consume all of my time and energy. There’s just too many more things I want to do with my days.

Thank you to the loyal users who have written to ask. Don’t give up on FILExt, the information is still there even if you have to look a bit harder. And, don’t fault Uniblue for changing the site design. After all, they have to sell their products which IMHO are very good.

[Comments from original 11/1/2009 post]

Some dude
Said this on 2009-11-17 At 09:14 pm
Wow. I would have never thought that filext.com would be the work of few people. It was such a great site. I do realize I am speaking in the past. Gotta love vintage. Thanks.

rupert pupkin
Said this on 2009-12-04 At 06:18 pm
a pretty interesting history/explanation about an indispensable resource i’ve used for almost a decade. thanks for all the good work and congrats on the sale … although if you broke it down i bet your hourly recompense was a joke. the silent thanks of millions will have to fill the gap.

since you’ve still got some parental tie to FILExt i wonder if you’d answer a question: for a little over a month one of my anti-virus programs has been going absolutely bonkers over the app that i presume you built way back when, “default-to-filext.exe.” i know it’s just a registry entry, but as soon as i begin downloading or installing it (it’s part of my standard installation so i install it a lot) Avira Antivir Desktop Personal edition lights up warning of the following trojan:
a network scan w/AVG Free doesn’t set off any alarms, but Avira has detected things AVG has missed before so i’m a little concerned. and this warning is very persistent – adding the EXE to the exclusions has no effect. i coudn’t find anything about it anywhere including the FILExt/Uniblue forums. just wondered what your thoughs are.

again, gracias for FILExt.

Said this on 2009-12-04 At 06:34 pm
In reply to #2
Thank you for the kind words (and a nod to the silent millions too :-)).

That’s the first report I’ve seen about that app causing a false alarm (and it is a false alarm if you got it from the FILExt site!) with any AV software. And, Uniblue has not mentioned they’ve gotten any to me either. I can only speculate as I no longer have the code for the app having sold everything to them. The program writes out some text files which include BAT (batch) files and REG (registry) files and then runs the main batch file. Kind of a kludge actually but I lay no claim to being a programmer and letting Windows do the job seemed like the best way to handle things. I’d do two things…

1) Contact the AV company and let them know you have encountered a false alarm. Send them a copy of the file and have them confirm it. I suspect that a signature in the EXE file is triggering the alert. Actually, this false alarm situation is fairly common among developers; the public often never hears about it as the AV people try to be responsive to such complaints.

2) Go to the directory where the application is writing the BAT and REG files and copy them. When installing you can then run the batch file directly instead of the EXE file. That should satisfy the AV programs (although if you have a registry monitor it might tell you something is trying to change the registry and ask you to approve it). Or, for that matter, just get the REG files and run them directly. Under Vista (and likely Win7) that directory should be: users\[username]\appdata\local\temp\htmlapp\.

Hope that helps.

rupert pupkin
Said this on 2009-12-04 At 09:42 pm
In reply to #3
it does help.

i figured next time i’d extract it w/7-zip & run the BAT, so we’re on the same page. i reported the false positive to Avira a while back but since i’m using the freebie i figured maybe such feedback goes to the back of the bus, so to speak. regardless, nothing has changed w/Avira and that was at least 6 weeks ago. and i (cautiously) reiterate – i think highly of the free version of Avira Antivir. but i agree it’s looking very false positive-y.

but sine i came across your blog post i though i’d ask if maybe the original file you authored had been altered. thanks for responding.

Said this on 2010-03-03 At 01:32 am
I go away for a few months and come back to a totally redesigned and completely useless site. When I first found filext.com I thought it was the best site out there for finding out the definition of file extensions and getting links to software that would help me open the file. Now it seems that Uniblue has drastically changed the purpose of the original website.

Sure it gives me a tiny amount of information about the file extension but it doesn’t seem to tell me what kind of software I need to open the file. All it seems to care about is getting me to download this registry checker. For example:

I was recently looking for the definition of .CBR, which I know know stands for Comic Book Reader, but the first thing that Filext tells me is this – “Errors in your registry are one of the common causes for incorrect file associations on your windows system. It is highly recommended that you check your registry for file association errors (will also check for any other registry errors).”

This is a direct quote off the CBR page. The phrase “check your registry” is highlighted, underlined and linked to secondary website.The information I need about what type of programs that I need to open CBR files is summed up in one line and there are no links to the software.

I really wish Uniblue would go back to the old site format that was being used. It was user friendly and great for people just starting to expand their knowledge base. I’ve moved on from using Filext to using Fileinfo.com. It’s not as expansive as the original filext site was but it provides useful information and links for finding usable software.

Said this on 2010-03-03 At 11:04 am
In reply to #5
Thanks for the kind words about FILExt under my control. While it’s true that Uniblue has changed the format to favor their products, the original information is all there; you just have to look a bit harder for the links that open the page up a bit to show it.

My main comment would not be about the format but about how the updating has seemed to slow to a crawl at best. But, it’s not my site any longer so…

registry checker
Said this on 2010-05-25 At 04:58 am
This is some good information on FILExt control. I think the format will begin to crawl correctly in time.

Said this on 2010-07-01 At 11:14 pm
Didn’t know about FILExt’s history, interesting story, many many thanks for building up such a useful resource and all the best for your future endeavors, take care.