It has been nearly a year since Scribd, a popular site where users can share documents and e-books, announced it was converting its content from the Flash format into HTML5. Today the company is making the last major step in that transition — it’s converting the more than 20 million Scribd documents that are embedded on other sites across the Web.
On one level, the format switch seems like a minor change, but it’s part of a larger debate about Adobe’s Flash technology and Flash’s place in an online world that’s increasingly dominated by mobile devices. While Android devices now support Flash, Apple famously refused to include similar support on its iPhone or iPad devices, and chief executive Steve Jobs even published an essay outlining what he saw as Flash’s shortcomings.
At Scribd, co-founder and chief technology officer Jared Friedman said the conversion to HTML5 was crucial for two reasons — to make Scribd documents readable on mobile devices, and to improve the reading experience generally. Friedman told me that that HTML5 has tripled the amount of time users spend on the site (which is even more impressive than the statistics he shared in the past).
Until now, however, Scribd still used Flash when its documents were embedded on other sites. (For example when VentureBeat wants to share a document with our readers, we usually upload it to Scribd and embed it in a post.) Starting today, all new embeds will switch to HTML5, and next week even old embeds will change too. Friedman said this is the first time a company switching from Flash to HTML5 has included previously embedded documents in the transition.
This move has been long-awaited by the San Francisco company’s partners, he added — many publishers using Scribd have been asking for the change, Friedman said, and others have said that they’ll sign up once the transition happens. So if I embed a Scribd document in a post, from now on that document will be readable on a smartphone too.
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