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Popular document-sharing site Scribd revealed yesterday that it’s going to be switching its site from Adobe’s Flash format to HTML5 (the latest update to the standard format of the Web). Today at the Web 2.0 Expo, cofounder and Chief Technology Officer Jared Friedman offered some thoughts on why Scribd decided to abandon the Flash application that it spent three years developing.
Fundamentally, he said, Scribd’s goal has always been to “make it easy for people to publish anything.” But it was hamstrung by Flash, because that means users can’t read and interact with documents as if they were regular web pages — instead, they need to launch a separate application in the browser.
“Until HTML, we had not fully achieved that vision,” Friedman said. “It just was not possible.”
Scribd has been working on its new HTML5 site for about six months now, Friedman said, and it will be “the largest deployment of HTML5 to date.” One reason for the switch was the fact that new font and vector graphics features in HTML finally allow Scribd to reproduce the look of a document without having to turn the document into an image. Using images, Friedman said, would “break the web just as much as special plugins do.”
“Browsers are now finally powerful enough to display any document natively,” Friedman said. “Or at least that was the theory.”
So it was not an easy decision. And Friedman predicted that the element of risk involved in this switch will be “a common theme” as companies look to HTML5. But Friedman said Scribd can now deliver the user experience it wants without Flash. And the move particularly made sense for the company since it needed to move off Flash to meet its goal of making its documents viewable on every mobile device.
Scribd tells me the first batch of 200,000 HTML5 documents should go live at 1pm Pacific today.
Update: Scribd is announcing today that it will soon add support for Google Docs. It already supports Microsoft Office files, PDFs, and ePub documents.
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