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ThinkFree takes on Scribd

ThinkFree, the eight-year-old Microsoft Office alternative, seems to have startup envy. After raising $24 million and getting bought four years ago, the company has kept up with the new era by launching online and collaborative updates. But private document sharing is so yesterday. Now, following the overvalued Scribd, which is being widely described as the “YouTube of documents,” ThinkFree is adding ThinkFree Docs, pitching itself as a “Flickr of documents.” Somehow the distinction escapes us.

We don’t really understand the need for building a public community around documents — but apparently it’s the hot new thing. ThinkFree offers the added benefit of mature document viewing technology, its core product, for which it has attracted 275,000 users to the free online version and “several hundred thousand users” to the paid offline version, according to Jonathan Crow, ThinkFree director of marketing. The company offers tools for .doc, .xls and other files, but doesn’t support PDFs.

Said Crow in an interview on Monday, “What we think we’re doing differently is Scribd is going for a lot more general of an audience whereas our audience is more Microsoft Office-centric.”

8 Responses to “ThinkFree takes on Scribd”

  1. Liz,

    I am a little late to jump on the bandwagon, but I wanted to respond to your comment:

    “We don’t really understand the need for building a public community around documents — but apparently it’s the hot new thing.”

    The newly launched Scriptovia is the perfect example of how a community can be built around document sharing. It is done by targeting a market that shares the same interest and get value from the documents by building useful tools around the sharing capabilities. For example, Scriptovia is targeted at high school and college students and, according to the website, allows them “to collaborate and receive feedback on their academic work. This includes essays, notes, lab reports, presentations, and everything else students create to advance their knowledge.

    The ultimate value to build a community of like users is invaluable to advertisers. For advertiser to be able to target their markets with one single campaign in one venue vs. a blanketing the campaign in several venues is huge. A great example how valuable a community like this can be is FaceBook. FaceBook has built micro communities – based on demographics (college students) and geographics (college campuses). Maybe that’s why FaceBook’s recent valuation is speculated to be more than $1 billion. Someone sees the value in FaceBook’s 7 million registered users.

    For Scriptovia, the documents and collaborative tools are the catalyst for driving like-minded users to the site and creating a large community of students that will have advertisers salivating (students are a super valuable market because they have been very difficult for advertisers to reach). I am not sure what is in it for Scribd and ThinkFree, as they are targeting the general public. But I do understand that document sharing can be an effective means to bring people together.


  2. sooth_sayer

    We don’t really understand the need for building a public…<<<

    I think it’s for spies and covert operators so that they can share the files more easily rather than pass them around in pumpkins etc.

    The whole idea is stupid .. even posting your pictures “in public” is rather dumb .. but I am behind times on this too!!

  3. Scribd and ThinkFree are both worthless with regards to this document sharing model. There is far more hype than a real need.

    Nitin – funny comment. 99% of people have no clue what Flicr is. ThinkFree will be similarly unknown. Then again, so will Scribd.

  4. Why the hell do we need document sharing? For online backup? – There are zillion online backup sites. As collaboration space? Even more crowded marketplace. My hypothesis – they are good for SEO experts to drop document with backlinks to target site and to drive traffic to target site with catchy headlines like “How to Make a Million Dollar“.

  5. ‘ThinkFree is adding ThinkFree Docs, pitching itself as a “Flickr of documents.” Somehow the distinction escapes us.’

    Hi Liz,

    Distinction: YouTube got bought by Google, Flickr by Yahoo.
    Maybe it’s a position-for-acquisition thing ;-)

  6. I actually use Scribd quite a bit…embedding uploaded PDF files into my blog using their flash paper interface. ThinkFree will have some catch up to do, Scribd definitely has an advantage with being first to market.