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Saturday, May 20, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sending big files in a jiffy

Special to The Seattle Times

High speed Internet is everywhere, so you almost forget that time not too long ago when sending or receiving a large file caused chaos on both sides. Even worse, a "large file" was anything over 500 kilobytes.

Which doesn't mean that you can get away with file-transfer murder today and just send huge multimedia chunks with no inconvenience. High speed still has its limitations when it comes to large files (for the sake of argument let's pick the random 10 MB level).

We no longer have the urge to send along now-puny PowerPoints. Rather, we want to share our graphical book projects, family vacation photo library and wedding footage.

Enter Pando. The service provides a clearinghouse for large files (up to 1 GB, with the acknowledged "sweet spot" being 200MB).

You upload an attachment through the Pando site, sending the recipient a placeholder link. Selecting this begins the download from multiple sources; that is your distribution list.

The file arrives at record speed, because it is coming from multiple sites. If you send the file to 20 people, all of those sources (providing they are online) will send separate packets to the requesting computer.

If you send directly to one recipient there are still two download sources — you and the Pando server (again, as long as you stay online).

"We've clocked some amazing speeds using multiple downloads," said Pando CEO Robert Levitan. "Between two users we are still faster than e-mail."

That is, if your e-mail provider even allows the transfer. Web-mail vendors may let you go as high as 10MB, even then your recipients may not all get the file. Corporations set their own limits, but most corporate e-mail systems have a 5 MB limit, according to Levitan.

Pando can do some cool things. It works on both the PC and the Mac.

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You go through its server, but the mail originates from your regular account. You can send a whole folder, rather than having to attach each individual file. Pando deletes the file from its server after 14 days, resulting in a more secure transfer.

"If I send a message from my Yahoo! to your Gmail account, each server keeps a copy," Levitan said. "If you go through Pando the only copies are held by the sender and the recipient."

Levitan said that Pando will always offer a free version. It plans to earn revenue with the familiar triumvirate of sponsorship, enhanced versions and technology partnerships. He hopes Pando will emulate Adobe Acrobat, another essentially free utility that has become a file transfer standard.

Pando is still in open beta, so we can't really make too much of an unsuccessful send of a 10 MB PDF file between a Mac and a PC. Until the user base reaches critical mass there will still be a lot of bugs, and you will naturally lose patience. This also evokes Acrobat.

The first time someone sent you a PDF file that required a download, you called him up and requested a fax version.

Today, the read-only Acrobat is a standard feature. Eventually, someone will send a file that you want to see enough that the time it takes to install Pando will become worthwhile.

Levitan is already convinced that Pando is on its way to ubiquity, so far boasting 600,000 downloads.

"We've been downloaded in 130 countries," he said. "I didn't know there were 130 countries on the Internet."

To download the Pando client or for more information go to www.pando.com.

If you have questions or suggestions for Charles Bermant, you can contact him by e-mail at cbermant@seattletimes.com.

Type Inbox in the subject field.

More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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