Interview with Tom Hawkes (Fileminx)
Fileminx is a free web application for converting between a fairly comprehensive set of formats (document, music, video and image). What’s more, no registration or email is required. I interviewed Tom Hawkes, Founder of Fileminx to find out more.
This interview is the fifth in a series of interviews with people working on interesting online projects. Big thank you to Tom for the interview!
How would you describe Fileminx in under 50 words?
Fileminx is a free web application for converting files between numerous document, video, music and image formats. It’s simple to use and quickly transforms a file you’re having trouble with into a format of more use, directly through your web browser.
What made you decide to start working on Fileminx?
A few years ago I received a video file via email from a friend that was taken on a mobile phone in 3GP format. I was using a public computer at the time and therefore didn’t have any permissions to install software to allow me to play the file… It got me thinking, wouldn’t it be handy if there was a website to convert this into another video format? Nothing like that existed back then so I thought I’d have a go at creating something easy to use for just these sorts of occasions.
How did you come up with the name?
Well, I wanted to convey a little bit of magic in the name – as what the site does is a bit like alchemy with computer files! Also it needed to be relatively short, snappy and memorable. I went through various iterations of things like “FileWizard” or “FileAlchemist” before striking on “FileMinx” which fit the bill nicely.
You’ve gone with an advertising business model? Why did you opt for advertising over a subscription model or some sort of payment system?
Most people will only need to convert files every now and again. Therefore, I knew that few would be willing to pay a subscription every month for something that is only used every so often. Advertising was considered to be the least obtrusive way of earning revenue without impacting user experience and so far it has been pretty successful.
Fileminx provides an extremely comprehensive array of file conversions, which were the hardest to implement and are there any that you’re still struggling with?
Converting from PDF files was probably the hardest to implement. This format is designed for viewing and printing – not necessarily editing or converting. Due to this, any conversion of PDF files is never going to be 100% accurate, but I think Fileminx now does a pretty good job.
Certain formats (music and video in particular) implement copy protection. Legally and technically Fileminx can’t convert these sorts of files.
How long did it take you to put together the first version of Fileminx and how long has it been open to the public?
It was around 8-9 months development work to get the first version up which just did video and music format conversion. This version went public beta in September 2009. Image conversion followed shortly afterwards and documents were added in July 2010, at which point Fileminx came out of its testing phase and went officially “Live”.
Has Fileminx got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
Feedback has been overwhelming positive so far which has been really rewarding. Growth was slow to begin with but has started to climb more rapidly in the last six months. There are various links on site encouraging users to “tell a friend” if they found the site useful and this in particular seems to be paying off.
Who do you see as your target audience?
Practically anyone! There are so many proprietary file formats produced by computers and gadgets nowadays that chances are most people will come across a file that they can’t open reasonably often. Fileminx was designed to try and make conversion as simple and quick as possible so that anyone can resolve file format related problems.
Who is your biggest competitor?
Zamzar is probably the largest competitor. But an email address (or registration) is required to use that site.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Initially getting the user interface as straightforward as possible was quite a challenge. It has evolved quite a lot from the first version and I think we have got to a point now where it’s pretty easy to use – but there are always improvements that can be made!
Do you have any conversions in the pipeline?
Development work is progressing on several more video formats (particularly around hi-def) and a wider range of documents such as e-books. Also, we’re looking into possibilities around converting various data formats.
Which conversion is most popular with your users?
PDF to Word Document and M4A (iPod music track) to MP3 are very popular at the moment.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Technology moves at such a fast pace that there is always something new just around the corner. It will be interesting to see if 3D video continues to build momentum, as this will no doubt result in a raft of new formats for Fileminx to convert!
Can you convince the reader to start using Fileminx in under 50 words?
If you have a file that you can’t open then Fileminx can convert it for you quickly and easily. It’s 100% free and you don’t need to download any software. Go on, give it a try!
Finished reading? Check out Fileminx!