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Summary:

Scribd, the San Francisco-based startup that was dubbed the “YouTube of Documents,” has finally become worthy of that sobriquet. While I don’t care much about community around documents, I love the concept of the dead simple sharing of documents. And that’s precisely what this 10-person startup […]

Scribd, the San Francisco-based startup that was dubbed the “YouTube of Documents,” has finally become worthy of that sobriquet. While I don’t care much about community around documents, I love the concept of the dead simple sharing of documents. And that’s precisely what this 10-person startup that raised close to $5 million in funding from Redpoint Ventures has done with its new viewer called iPaper.

The company has also introduced an API that will make it easy for others publishers to plug Scribd into their systems. More on that later, but first let’s talk about their new iPaper, which CEO & Co-founder Trip Adler showed me over the weekend.

Like the YouTube video player, the iPaper viewer utilizes Adobe’s Flash technology. Adler says that it took the company about six months to develop this player; it replaces the older player, which was (ironically) based on Macromedia’s Flash Paper technology. Adler says this gives his company a competitive advantage over rivals including Adobe.

ipaper.gif
The iPaper app does pretty much everything you expect from Adobe Acrobat Reader, despite its tiny footprint. You can embed the documents, share them, do full text search, and there are many view modes. It is really, really fast — mostly because the document is “streamed” to iPaper instead of it being downloaded, like in case of Microsoft Office or PDF files. (I wonder why Adobe didn’t develop an iPaper viewer of its own. I guess they didn’t learn the lessons of online video.) The coolest thing about the iPaper demo was Scribd’s ability to embed Google text ads inside the documents being viewed. This makes non web-pages suddenly monetizable. The advertising revenues are split between the publisher and Scribd. I think this is an important development and explains why, unlike more enterprise-focused Docstoc, Scribd is focusing on the consumer market. There is no way for Google to advertise against non-HTML documents such as PDF format files. iPlayer opens up a big new inventory for Google. If the tiny startup can replicate the popularity of YouTube, it has suddenly made itself a possible acquisition candidate for Google. Of course, no one has been able to replicate YouTube and its success is something for Adler and his co-founders to think about.

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  1. I believe that Adobe did attempt to do this. They call it Flash Paper. It was no where near as successful as they had hoped. I am not sure that they ever got to the “streaming” part but I believe flash itself has streaming content capabilities when combined with the Flash Media Server.

  2. Gave it a shot based on the recommendation, but looks like it isn’t up and running yet – error message said the embed code they gave me was the “old” version.

    Looks promising though!

  3. [I wonder why Adobe didn’t develop an iPaper viewer of its own. I guess they didn’t learn the lessons of online video.]

    Check out Adobe Share. It’s a web-based application written in AIR that has similar functionality.

  4. @Dwight,

    You have a link for that? THanks

  5. Adobe Share is clunky and you have to install all the AIR crap before you use it.

  6. Scribd iPaper – Embed Documents in Web Pages, Also Make Money via Google AdSense at Henricus Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    [...] Scribd iPaper | Video Demo | FAQ | Thanks Om. [...]

  7. Neel: the embed codes have been fixed and now display the iPaper code

  8. PS. you do not need AIR to use this, and its a simple online tool to share and store different types of media including:

    Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007 formats, Rich Text Format (RTF), Open Office formats, text, and PDF.
    • HTML
    • Adobe supported image formats: GIF, JPEG, BMP, PNG
    • Creative Suite file formats
    • SWF and Captivate formats
    • ZIP

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