Die, Scribd. Die.

Have you seen Scribd.com? If you haven’t consider yourself lucky. You can try to avoid it, but every once in a while, for reasons I can’t really understand, an idiot will post a link to a document there.

For instance, the other day on Hacker News, someone posted an interesting link to a paper on scalable distributed B-trees. The PDF is here, but the article links to Scribd, scribd.

Take a moment and notice the difference between the two. Now tell me the point of what scribd did in its conversion.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

So is it just me or is scribd.com the worst thing to happen to the Internet since MIME-based email?

Insofar as I can tell all it does is strip me of basic functionality. I can’t save it like the PDF. I can’t print the whole thing. Fuck, I can’t even copy and paste! And it introduces confusing functionality (TWO scrollbars on the left!? WTF?).

All for what?

So some engineers could do some flash-based masturbation & feel web 2.0?

Scribd.com developers: you are not Web 2.0. You are not 1.0. You are web -0.5. You are what we people did when they had bullshit internal doc apps, before HTML, before PDF, before we all realized that text files are often the best format.

So what do they think the point of their existence is?

Scribd is a Silicon Valley startup creating technology that makes it easy to share documents online. You can think of Scribd as a big online library where everyone can publish original content, including you!

Part of the idea behind Scribd is that everyone has a lot of documents sitting around on their computers that only they can read. With Scribd we hope to unlock this information by putting it on the web.

Bullshit. I call bullshit.

They’re not unlocking anything. If anything they are locking things up by placing it in their own jackass format.

Please, scribd, tell us all what exactly was wrong with text? Or PDFs?

Why exactly are we supposed to embrace your closed-source, proprietary standard? One, because it is so jacked up, makes it invisible to all search engines, including Google?

Now please stop pissing off the Internet & go bankrupt already.

UPDATE: I’ve posted a followup.

120 Responses to “Die, Scribd. Die.”

  1. Dave Says:

    I like your new word: propriety.

    I agree with you you about Scribd, though. It really is terrible.

  2. Dave Says:

    Just kidding about the word, btw.

  3. web design company Says:

    I **fucking hate** links to stuff on Scribd. All my computers have PDF viewers; worst-case, I can always convert a PDF to PostScript and just send it to my printer. Not all my computers have Flash. This can get real annoying, real quick. Death to Scribd.

  4. Rob Says:

    You noticed that, too? Someone should tell them there’s a thing on the ‘net for sharing documents called HTML that works pretty well, too.

    I hate Scribd.

  5. Timmy Jose Says:

    Dude, maybe you should use the site more often. It allows you to save it in PDF. I have used it. This looks like a cheap rant for the wrong reasons. Pointless blog.

  6. wdr1 Says:

    @Timmy Jose: Think about your reasoning for a moment & understand why you have failed.

  7. Miguel Pérez Says:

    It’s only marginally worse than a PDF file. You can’t copy and paste? Adobe’s obnoxious format can disable that as well (of course, I’ll always get rid of that, like any Digital Restrictions Malware).

    The biggest problem is that you cannot save it to disk, as with many other Internet-centric formats and services such as streaming video services – most of which, to my pleasure, died.

    But the more important point to make is that with half-assed formats such as Scribd or PDF, the document creator can shove his fonts, colours and styles up your rear entry, that you’re viewing pages on a pageless scrollable screen, and that you’re browsing the World Wide Web and suddenly you’re not getting standard W3C content, but crap. PDFs were already a terrible idea; those serving PDFs because they think they’re so cool or they look so professional need to die. When I browse the web, I expect HTML. When I want to read text, I want the simplest, most open, easily processable format, and whenever content sits on my RAM or long-term storage memory, text or not, I want to have control over how and when it shows up. And this is not possible in either Sribd or PDF files.

  8. Ovid Says:

    @Timmy Jose: I think you missed quite a few points in the blog entry. That being said, *I* couldn’t find any option to save the document as PDF. If it is, in fact, possible to save it as PDF, why the hell is it so hard to figure out? scribd is useless and painful.

  9. Roger Says:

    Hi Will,

    I think there’s a lot of things weird about Scribd but there’s a reason they use Flashpaper (or whatever it’s called) instead of PDF and that’s to allow the documents to render within the browser instead of forcing it to open up an external app like Acrobat reader. Secondly, most people have Flash installed (95%+) adoption rate I believe and although Acrobat is very prevalent as well it probably isn’t 95%. In terms of questions about HTML, they don’t really have a way to convert the book formatting in the exact format to HTML and preserve the layout of the text, pictures, etc. That’s why PDF exists and FlashPaper exists for the web.

  10. Mark Says:

    Never seen it before. Can’t say I’m terribly impressed or really see the point.

    On the other hand, I found that switching the view mode to Book allowed for text highlighting and (obviously) copy’n'pasting. Printing the whole document worked without a hitch (thanks btw, interesting read.)

    Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t use it and would find links to documents in it profoundly annoying. But not as annoying as a factually inaccurate frothing-at-the-mouth style AngryBlog which doesn’t even have the decency to be mildly entertaining. :)

  11. Joel Says:

    great rant. what i hate about scribd is that spacebar doesn’t work to scroll. and that it’s web 0.5.

  12. none Says:

    Timmy fail

  13. Kranium Says:

    I’d not noticed scribd before, and agree that there is no point in it (that I can see). However, some of the things you are seeing, I’m not. I dont see two scroll-bars on the left. And you can copy and paste text after clicking on the icon that looks like a ‘I’ cursor.

    And so true. flash is not web2.0.

  14. HM2K Says:

    I think you missed the point.

    Point is, instead of needing a Adobe Reader plugin for your browser, you only need the flash plugin and let’s face it the Adobe Reader plugin is dog shit!

    Further more, it supports many document types, not just PDF.

    Having said this, ignorance is bliss.


  15. Ringding Says:

    I think it’s kinda neat. It’s the fastest PDF renderer there is (on a dated Linux workstation). However, I didn’t realize that they convert the document. I always thought that it was a PDF rendering engine implemented in Flash.

  16. John S Says:


    I can download to PDF and to Txt just fine. You’re just pissed because someone linked you directly to the fullscreen version. You should have researched your subject more before the rant…

  17. Elad Says:

    Dude, you’re absolutely right. I can’t figure out what scribd is good for myself, and I can’t figure out why people use it.

    Yet the fact is that people do use it after all, and that their popularity is growing. Can anybody here comment with a good reason why?

  18. hannes Says:

    Firstly, when I visit scribd, I can copy, paste and print. You may want to spend a couple minutes actually looking at their site.

    Secondly, here are two reasons why I feel scribd is useful:

    1) Time
    Common document formats are ppt, doc, pdf, ps, and open office stuff. Every time you hit one of those on the web, you download it, open up the required program and then look at the file. Time wasted: 30sec at least (word and acrobat are bloated). With scribd, it loads in 2sec and you can quickly skim the document to see whether it’s any use or not. Plus, you don’t need to fish around your harddisk to delete it if it was useless.

    2) Embeddable
    Documents can be embedded on websites, you can give them a quick glance then head over to scribd to read the whole thing.

  19. mike Says:

    William, you speak the truth! I absolutely loathe that crappy widget. There’s also one other company that’s also copying this crap and you sometimes see their widget on Techcrunch. They’re both atrocious and don’t solve any problems. WHo the heck can read an embedded document that’s 200x300px wide anyway? So their story how they’re “making stuff accessible” is NONSENSE! Widgeted documents are totally UNREADABLE!

    Worst thing is that paul graham is making us all suffer on HN to get links to that crap. It’s not our fault he invested in garbage. Why should we suffer for it? No amount of shoving that stuff down our throats will make us like it.

    As to how they’re getting so much traffic… it’s all from SEO! They actually extract text out of these documents and then expose it to search engines. You, as a user, need to suffer by reading the docs through the flash crap however.

    WSJ also said in one of their articles that Scribd gets a lot of their traffic from porn. Yes, porn! http://www.scribd.com/doc/497381/WSJ-article-on-scribd-in-html-format

    Now that they’ve grown on porn userbase, they’re supposedly banning it. HAHHAH!

  20. Paz Says:

    Dear William Reardon,

    There’s nothing wrong with text or PDF. That’s probably why scribd put a DOWNLOAD BUTTON right above the document — you can download to PDF, DOC, or plain old txt. Now is an appropriate time to post an update where you apologize.

    Maybe the only thing they’re guilty of is not making the button big enough for jackasses to see.

  21. CutNPaste Says:

    You actually CAN copy and paste. It’s pretty easy to figure out, so I won’t bother explaining it.

  22. john conroy Says:

    nice article… but YOU’RE WRONG. ARRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!
    I like scribd, and this is the second time in a week I’ve had to defend it.

  23. Robotics Says:

    You said it better than I ever could. Thank you!

  24. Anil Says:

    You are passionate, but wrong. Scribd allows you to copy and paste, just like pdf readers – see the icon that looks like a ‘I’ on the toolbar? click it, and you go into text select mode (if it sounds complicated, that’s how the adobe reader works too). You can copy to your hearts content. Of course you cannot paste into the document itself (just like you cannot do in a pdf file).

    Print? Click on iPaper>Print and you can happily print the document.

    So what is the functionality that you are missing on scribd? You have missed the whole point of scribd, which is to provide a format independent way of publishing documents so that you can put up text files, word documents, pdf files and they will all be viewable on your browser. Not everyone has pdf installed, but in the age of youtube, everyone has flash installed. The user experience of scribd is no worse than reading a pdf online, only (depending on your taste) better.

  25. Bob Says:

    If you remove all the misinformed blunders about what scribd can and cannot technically do (printing, conversion to PDF and other formats, etc), this entertaining post becomes:

    *insults* *posturing* *swearing* proprietary *more insults*

    Ah! You said “proprietary”. Somehow in the smelly puddle of anger you left on your blog, you actually made a point worth thinking about.

    So a startup decided to start competing on the web by developing a closed-source program that stores and renders documents in a closed format, although it lets users export those documents to various open formats.

    That sounds serious. How is that different from, say, Google Docs?
    You don’t have the source to google docs. It’s closed-source.
    You don’t control the format they use to render the documents. It’s a whole lot of javascripty goodness. Web 2.0, remember?
    They however most certainly let you export their documents to open formats, including HTML.

    So that can’t be the “proprietary” part you’re talking about.
    What else is left?

    Ah, of course. Flash. Flash is evil. Nevermind that it is installed on many more internet-connected computers than PDF readers. It is the Reason the web is not Web 6.0 already. (almost. Flash has actually pushed the rest of the web players to get off their collective ass and start implementing modern browser functionalities. If you’re bored, go check out the SVG 1.2 spec, or HTML5, and ponder where all those good ideas possibly came from.)

    And why is it evil? Who knows. Maybe it’s because it uses a binary format, and you’re afraid of binary (nevermind that text can be extracted from it quite easily.) Maybe it’s because there isn’t a good open-source player for it yet, and you’ve made a solemn vow to only use open-source software until the day you die. (In which case, good for you, sport! Just hang tight for Gnash. At the rate of their consistent refusals to reuse Adobe’s open sourced components, they’ll be done in a decade or so.)

    Maybe it’s because other angry bloggers on the web have told you to despise flash (“99% bad”, “skip intros”, etc) and you mindlessly took the bait.

    Anyway, that’s a lot of big words for a summarily dismissive response similar to the one you deigned to inflict upon Timmy Jose, so I’ll stop there.

    You sir, are a bigot.

  26. Stefano Says:

    I often use the open library’s computers: I cannot save documents on them, and, no, there’s not PDF reader installed. So Scribd is offering a service that has a meaning for me who wants to read a doc and for the guy who has a doc to publish and don’t want to create an html page and find a place where to host it.
    So, calm down and let people do whatever they want with their money, even a web 0.5 website

  27. SteveB Says:

    @wdr1: Where is the possibility to save the above linked document in PDF? Where?

  28. Norm Says:

    Uh, hello — that is not the fault of Scribed, it is the fault of the person who posted the link. If you took only a few seconds and snagged the doc’s name (like I did) the searched Scribed for the document (HPL-2007-193) you would have found this http://www.scribd.com/doc/3405692/HPL2007193.

    The second link you posted gave the URL of http://www.scribd.com/full/3378739?access_key=key-16kx1phb0dvx92r0jqb9.

    Notice the utl has FULL in it. That should have been your FIRST CLUE that this layout is simply one of several views that Scribed offers.

    Now who looks like Web 0.5 – YOU!

  29. mrstock Says:

    Strange. I can print the whole thing and even save it as a PDF. Are you not on a mac?

  30. bob Says:

    It has a “Print” option.. just print it to a PDF. Why not send them your suggestions for improvement?

  31. Truth Says:


    Click download. problem solved. you are clueless.

  32. Truth Says:


    click download. not much of a problem.

  33. Jamie Lawrence Says:

    Um… I don’t get the double scrollbars and I thought that you could download the PDF, but now that I look I can’t find the functionality. Frankly, I’ve never understood what was wrong with PDF’s either. They might not be as openly linkable as HTML (although you can link to individual pages) but surely PDFs are better than Flash??

  34. kL Says:

    Haha, not even mouse wheel works.

  35. Matt Says:

    WTF are you talking about ? I had no problem copy/pasting, print seems to work fine, and i don’t seem to have your issue with duel scroll bars.

    The real issue here was that the Hacker News poster converted the file from the original PDF. If he(or she) had converted it into powerpoint slides, filmed it, and uploaded it to YouTube, would you have blamed YouTube for the abomination ?

  36. Gabriel Says:

    You do realize you can copy text right… In the 5 seconds I’ve used it i managed to find the text tool.

  37. Peter Cooper Says:

    Scribd is really the YouTube of documents.. would you argue that YouTube is “Web -0.5″ too because, well, you could just have raw MPEG4 files on a Web site rather than have them presented in a Flash player?

  38. cak Says:

    The advantage? I don’t have to install that piece of sh*t that is adobe acrobat on my own machine. A piece of sh*t that take 2 minutes to load up, just to view a simple document. A piece of sh*t that that is blown up to 34megs, just for a simple document viewer, not even the pdf editor. What a joke. Sure there are better viewers than adobe, but why, when I can just view the pdf on the webpage.

    Can’t believe someone actually thinks adobe PDF viewer is great?

  39. Robert K Says:

    It might be useful if it was an online pdf viewer. But i guess that is not what it is.

  40. Marc Says:

    > I can’t print the whole thing
    Yes you can, top left (hover over “iPaper”)

    > Fuck, I can’t even copy and paste!
    Yes you can, top right

    If you’d just taken the time to look at the thing for more than 5 seconds you might have realized those were there :P

  41. David Says:

    Scribd is a great way to quickly get already-written documents online. It provides plenty of extra features, and does a good job of getting indexed by Google. (The content, not just the title.)

    I am certain that the documents I have put on Scribd have been more widely read than they would be if I just uploaded a PDF somewhere, or saved them as HTML and put them on a web page.

  42. jpd Says:


  43. William Favorite Says:

    I had a number of people take my published content from my site and re-post it to Scribd under a different “User”. Now when you google for my (unique) content I am beat in the SERPs *BY MY OWN CONTENT* on Scribd. As far as I am concerned, Scribd is just another dot.bomb empty plan to make gadzillions on the Internet. I hope they die an ugly painful death, and that everyone who contributed (VC, Developers, “owners”) to this mess find themselves significantly poorer for the effort.

  44. Joe Chung Says:

    Not that I advocate using Scribd — it seems redundant in a world with HTML and PDF already — but you can copy and paste with Scribd.

  45. John Jomeas Says:

    I agree dude, use the site more often, thats what its there for.


  46. N E Says:

    Wow, you don’t like Scribd then?

    Jokes aside I agree with you in part however rather than blame scribd you should have a word with the person who uploaded the pdf to Scribd. It’s clear the pdf was on a stable, easily accessible server already, but that’s one reason why people choose to upload to Scribd.

    Now, IMO, the purpose of scribd is not to throw on lots of files for no apparent reason but to throw on files you need sharing in a different way. Such as sharing a file where you know you won’t be able to email or transfer via memory stick – Sometimes schools and work places truly lock down access to parts of the computer.

    Again I think you need to speak to the uploader about what he did to the PDF because by default you should be able to save the file.

    Also, a lot of people, including myself, find it a huge annoyance that you click on a PDF file link and you have to wait for Acrobat to load up, so much so there are Firefox addons that warn you when you click on a PDF file. At least with Scribd, everything is in the same window, with a much lower load time.

    One more thing, remember if it was a document that wasn’t PDF and you didn’t want it tampered with by the average user, it would be a great way to lock it down.

    BTW I’m not a scribd user per se, I’ve occasionally viewed a file on it.

  47. Jason Palmer Says:

    What is the point in decoding a pdf, displaying it with your weird interface, and allowing it to be saved as a pdf, again?? Cut out the crappy middle man.

  48. robert Says:

    Yea, scribd is basically getting text of the internet or documents and putting them into a small little box where I can scroll within a web page, why isn’t it just on the damn website page, damn page within a page. It does suck! lol

  49. Daniel Says:

    1. I don’t see 2 vertical scrollbars unless I resize my browser to less than 1/4 of my screen; perhaps you should upgrade to a modern computer/monitor?

    2. Acrobat Reader v6/v7 on Windows have known problems opening documents inline and often consistently fail to initialize; scribd opens on 96+% of all desktops.

    3. IE6, IE7 and Firefox have subtle differences in how they handle “content-disposition” headers, which can cause user confusion when attempting to open/save PDF documents; scribd solves that too.

    It’s a flawed product, sure… but sadly it’s far more reliable than earlier versions of Acrobat Reader.

  50. nick Says:

    Never heard of it… Sounds like an unpopular google docs.

  51. Chris Says:

    I think you really are missing the point of a site like Scribd. There are many people out there who want to create documents and expose them to users via the web, but do not want those users to download and modify those documents.

    Scribd allows you to create documents and expose them, but ultimately control who views and redistributes those documents.

    Using your logic sites like google books and amazong preview are just as useless.

    Scribd also allows you to do everything that you just described it can’t and is actually pretty intuitive to use.

    Just because you don’t see the direct application of a technology, does not mean that the technology is useless.

  52. Max Says:

    Just opened the b-tree link to scribd. I can copy and paste, there is only one scroll bar on the right, and the page looks identical to the pdf. However, I can’t find the save to PDF option. Are you sure we’re talking about the same site?

  53. nick Says:

    Never heard of this… seems like a primitive version of Google Docs.

  54. justin Says:

    I agree with Timmy. The site work fine for me. One scroll bar, prints all pages, and allows me to save. The fact that it’s NOT PDF allows a quicker load time (in my browser at least).

  55. Reason Says:

    So where should I put my documents instead? Should I buy space somewhere and ftp them up?

  56. Wesley Walser Says:

    Using the document that you linked too, I have the ability to print, and copy and paste.

    I am confused about the rant as well.

  57. name Says:

    even more egregious is that the document viewer feels wrong. the scroll bars don’t scroll the way scroll bars should, the page transitions are wonky, i can’t change the zooming or cropping (very well), can’t change to two-up or change from a continous roll to 1-page at a time … oh, wait, what’s this? I can change the viewer so that it looks like a real book … OMG I’M READING A BOOK ON THE INTERNET, LOOK THE PAGES FLIP!

    okay, i take back everything bad i ever said about scribd, the book view soooooo makes up for everything.

  58. EdwardK Says:

    Scribd does allow cut and paste, the toggle is left of the search bar, but it is very crippled because it only permits you to select from what is visible on the screen and does not auto-scroll as most other apps when you hold the cursor towards the bottom.

    Scribd is a good idea but their iPaper technology is definitely negating any potential benefit.

  59. Phillip Winn Says:

    It’s easy to copy-and-paste if you switch into text-select mode. One must do the same in Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, even.

    Also, Scribd accepts more than PDF for input.

    That said, I’ll be quite happy when Scribd disappears, and people convert everything to PDF.

  60. SN Says:

    With Ubuntu GNU/Linux the print panel in Scribd lets me target a PDF file but thats due to having that output type already available as a printer choice in the OS.

    If youtube videos and iPaper take over maybe we will regress to a Prodigy like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NAPLPS environment, only now higher speed and in high definition?

  61. Ryan Says:

    Ah…flaming. Relax there guys!

  62. fuelvolts Says:

    Step 1) Install Cute PDF Printer
    Step 2) Open Scribd file
    Step 3) Select Print to Cute PDF Printer and save to your PC as a PDF
    Step 4) ???
    Step 5) PDF Profit!

  63. just24 Says:

    Agreed wholeheartedly. Scribd is an abortion of a concept – it’s 2008 – who has a computer that cannot read pdf’s, doc’s, xls’s, and other extremely common formats? People who use scribd are even worse than people who use lightboxes.

  64. Bob Smith Says:

    I call rant. Take it easy man. It’ll be ok. I agree that in the example you provided it made much more since to post the PDF than the Scribd document. It was mostly a text based document and loaded much faster in Acrobat. However, in graphic intensive PDFs such as catalogs you may be looking at a large file size (20mb? 100mb?) which take a long time to download. In this case a Scribd document would load much faster and allow near instant access to the document. I have several catalogs posted and they load alot faster as Scribd documents.

  65. Neil Taylor Says:

    > Fuck, I can’t even copy and paste!

    haha, major tardom

  66. Gary Haran Says:

    What about Word documents? Using Scribd ensures that anyone can see Word documents in our application without having to install any MS software.

    What would be the advantage of just linking to Word documents instead?

  67. zebra Says:

    scribd is a goldmine of interesting stuff. and its free. all your criticism is at best kiddish. you need to go and have a second look before you let off steam like this!

  68. JT Says:

    I agree with Timmy Jose. Scribd isnt the the worst thing in the world. Besides, some would scoff at your embracing of PDF, since it’s not an open standard.

    Take Scribd for what it is. A free way of exchanging documents in an operating-system and browser-neutral way. That’s all.

  69. Roberto Says:

    I followed the link to the Scribd document. I can select and copy text. I can print it. I only see one scrollbar.

    I think Scribd is great for sharing Powerpoint presentations. For pdfs I think it’s kind of pointless, though I still prefer it to using an embded pdf viewer.

  70. Jimmy James Says:

    Thank you for an amusing post. Very informative.

  71. Paul Says:

    wdr1, learn some reading comprehension for God’s sake. Timmy Jose wasn’t “reasoning” about anything. He stated a fact. Its possible to save .pdfs from Scribd if you have even the slightest bit of intelligence. No one said it was perfect, but guess what they’re a startup you buffoon, they’re bound to make mistakes. Maybe you should try out all of the options on the site before you waste your time whining about your ineptitude.

  72. Graeme Says:

    Scribd seems useful for people who do not like Acrobat Reader, and do not know that there are other PDF readers available.

    I find Scribd extremely annoying.

  73. JMC Says:


    I’m not sure what you were looking at, but I saw no option to print, save, or do anything worthwhile other than view it.

  74. Mike Says:

    You can cut and paste and print in Scribd.

    I don’t even have any particular love for Scribd. I’ve never used it much. But I just cut and pasted from your example– so regardless of what I think of Scribd, I do have a dislike of mis-information. How much did you try it out pre-rant?

    Scribd is a competitor to PDF. Yes they are similar. Are you shocked? Word, OpenOffice, Buzzword or Google Docs are all pretty similar, does that mean that only one word processor should exist?

    The point of Scribd is that it is a web based document format. As desktop applications move to web based applications, the concept of local documents will diminish. For example Word->Google Docs or Powerpoint->SlideRocket. Eventually opening a local file on your machine running in a os specific desktop application will not be the norm. We’ve been moving towards web based apps for many years, and now even the guys like Microsoft are scrambling (Office Live) because they see the writing on the wall.

    Scribd is a desktop app (Adobe Reader) moved to the web. I’m not sure how that is web -.5. If you ask me, it’s actually a little ahead of it’s time.

  75. Cyde Weys Says:

    I have to say I agree with you here, William. I’ve been linked to Scribd a few times, and each time I’ve been left unsatisfied. Give me a hyperlink to a raw pdf over Scribd any day of the week.

  76. Jim Says:

    Click “Print”

  77. Michael Campbell Says:

    Agree completely. I hate these links. Sweet jesus, anything that makes PDF the *preferred* method of viewing something has had to TRY to be that bad.

  78. Andy Baio Says:

    I’ve never really used the site, but in a few seconds playing around on Scribd.com, I was able to copy/paste and print. You can save files locally (as PDF, plaintext, and Word doc), but you apparently need to create an account first, which is weak. And I only see one scrollbar, even in the full-screen view… Post a screenshot?

    I imagine the biggest benefits are the free hosting, Flash viewer, and social features. It very much seems like YouTube for documents… Before YouTube, I’d host videos on my own site, but that required server space and bandwidth, and even then, it didn’t have the immediacy of the current Flash clients or the built-in audience for sharing and promotion.

    I think the only valid criticism is that it’s not an open format, so can’t be indexed by the rest of the web. They could resolve this by hosting PDFs and plaintext versions of all their documents in the open.

  79. Japherwocky Says:

    Never even heard of scribd before now (where do these CA companies get all this money?!) but here’s a big old cosign.

  80. SpellingBitch Says:

    How about you go to scribd and look for the pdf that talks about the difference between its and it’s?

  81. lucidiot Says:

    WDR, you make a decent argument, but I think it’s a bit flawed. First of all, the example is looking at a doc that has been converted from PDF to a flash viewer. Yes, in this case it’s a step back in functionality to take a mostly-universally readable & usable format like PDF and remove functionality by putting it in a flash viewer where you now have 2 vertical scroll bars, no copy & paste, etc.

    But what about all of the other, non-universal upload formats that Scribd handles that become universally digestible when converted to flash – digestible by everyone besides “web design company” who somehow doesn’t have flash on all of his/her machines?

    Besides ignoring the value of converting & making accessible many other file formats, you ignore some other value/functionality. You can download the PDF or a TXT version of the document (although not in full screen mode that you linked to). The text is searchable. It is also spider-able by search engines. That’s why so many documents are “found” on Scribd.

    Following your argument, I suppose Scribd could have built a viewer that converted all docs into HTML, but it would have been impossible to maintain formatting and other graphical elements. While that works for a technical doc, it’s unacceptable for almost anything else.

    I may find Scribd only marginally valuable, but I can still see its purpose for others. I vote we let it live.

  82. Brett Says:

    Yea, no doubt. Totally agree with this rant. You can tell that Scribd’s big idea was “let’s make YouTube for documents.” This was during a time that streaming video sucked, so YouTube worked. Documents on the web didn’t suck, and worked just fine. There was nothing to be fixed here. Unfortunately, for every reason you just cited, it’s still a tasty idea for dumbass VCs.

  83. Craig Says:

    In this particular case, it appears the uploader doesn’t allow Copy / Paste or saving the document, even though the original document has none of these restrictions.

    But the point isn’t whether or not Scribd disallows saving or exporting documents, the questions is why does it exist at all. Most computers that have flash have the ability to install PDF as well. The only reason I can come up with for this site even existing is to support embedded devices that may have flash but not PDF or other export means. Outside of supporting these devices, the site is pointless. It’s the same feeling I have when I get my DDJ electronic subscription, and they bring up their silly NXT reader; I can’t find the PDF link fast enough.

    Completely agree: Scribd has no point whatsoever.

  84. n0wak Says:

    I think your venting should be more directed to Adobe than anyone else. After all, they are the ones that created Flash Paper (ok, Macromedia did that initially before they got bought but whatever) and pushed it despite, pretty much, owning PDF. And if you really take a close look at Flash, it really is no more proprietary and closed-source than PDF (and many devices can handle flash/flash lite now). Most of the time, I’d prefer Flash paper to PDF because the Acrobat player is so bloody bloated and slow.

    But, saying all that, I agree with you. Fuck Flash Paper *and* fuck PDF. Give me the *text*.

  85. Frank Says:

    All I know is that I clicked on the pdf link which popped open the “save dialog” in my browser… so I immediately canceled the download. I then clicked on the Scribd link and immediately started reading the paper.

    Your post is unfounded.

  86. Eric Jensema Says:

    Honestly, I don’t see the problem with Scribd. I see no confusing double scrollbar on the left, I can save it as a PDF, and I can print the entire document. Maybe I’m blind, but I don’t notice any significant difference between the two documents either. The only real annoyance is that you can’t copy/paste.

  87. zolok Says:

    Scribd is amazing. It is not a pdf replacement, and even if it were, your points are invalid.

    You could say everyone has a video player, why have youtube? Why not just have links to videos?

    Long live Scribd. Nice publicity stunt for your blog though. Hope 1% of the people who’re viewing it right now return again after today.

  88. Every/No One Says:

    Point One – Saving an Article
    Go to Scribd and do a search for “kittens” and click on “Zombie Kittens.” You’ll see the article. The article is framed. Above the toolbar in the framed article is another toolbar. This toolbar begins with the EMAIL option. The sixth option from the left is the download option. Clicking that will display your options for downloading the article. You will need to sign in or create an account before downloading the article, but you will, nonetheless, be able to download it.
    In the top right corner of the framed article is an icon resembling a partially-filled in rectangle. Clicking that icon will cause you to view the article full-screen. When viewing an article like this you will not have the ability to save the article.
    Don’t blame Scribd, blame the people posting links directly to the article. This is similar to posting direct links to YouTube videos, which is just god damned stupid.

    Point Two – Copying Text
    Go to Scribd and do a search for “kittens” and click on “Zombie Kittens.” You’ll see the article. The article is framed and in the toolbar of the framed article is a search box. Directly to the left of the search box is what appears to be a capital I. Clicking that will enable you to copy text from the article.

    In short, you’re wrong and you’re wrong – articles CAN be saved and you CAN copy text.

    I really do hope you read this, William Reardon.

  89. Marcel Says:

    William… you are incorrect. There is a space for Scribd. Scribd does exactly what Youtube does. But for documents. It takes sucky formats and created flash documents with it.

    I don’t like PDF, so I’m glad to see a document in flash.
    Did you know that Adobe Acrobat stays in memory after you click on a PDF link ? Even if you close down your browser. The does not happen with Scribd.

  90. Gav Says:

    You can actually copy and paste, using the text select tool (At the top, looks like a cursor)

    It’s also far faster than pdf’s which mostly fuck up your browser with their integration

  91. evgen Says:

    To all of you whining about how this is better than the shitty Acrobat plugin, please for your own sanity get Foxit and kick Adobe to the curb. Foxit provides plugins that allow in-browser pdf viewing on windows (mac users get an enlightened OS that deals with pdfs like a dream, so we will ignore them) and as a stand-alone pdf viewer it is a hell of a lot better than acrobat.

  92. Mike Says:

    Yeah, Scribd is terrible. I’ve had run-ins with their crappy viewer and, contrary to what everyone says, I remeber *not* always being able to d/l a PDF version. Perhaps some doucments are restricted. On further thought, I recall having to scour bugmenot to find a login, so perhaps they only allow registered users to download.

    In any event it’s a stupid idea; a flash PDF renderer would be an awesome tool to use on websites, but that’s not what Scribd is. Trying to build a community site centered around a flash widget that forces reading in a tiny box 1/4 the size of your screen and breaks normal PDF expectations — like scrolling with the keyboard — is idiotic. The thing should be a preview tool, not the main attraction.

    Finally, creating a site that encourages all publishing to be done via pseudo-PDF encourage retarded, as you say, Web 0.5 presentation styles. All of a sudden instead of interesting web pages describing something you get 95 page PowerPoint shows with an average of 1/8 sentence of new information per page. An no links, because people just don’t use links in PDFs.

  93. bung Says:

    Scribd: Great for stealing books.

    Their whole value, as far as I can see, is to offer other people’s IP back out. Where why generate revenue or value from, I don’t know, but it’s been great to get some pdf versions of books I already own (and be tempted by a few I don’t).

  94. ihateittoo Says:

    f*** scribd.

  95. Richard Says:

    I agree.

  96. Ben Mc Says:

    You can Copy/Paste, it’s on the top right.

    You can Print, it’s on the top left.

    Two scroll bars? What’s wrong with your computer? No double scroll-bars here.

    You can embed your documents on your website without requiring your viewers to open Adobe. This is a GOOD thing for a lot of us.

    No, it doesn’t appear that you can easily save the document to your computer, so that’s the only down-side I can see.

    Someone is having a bad day :(

  97. NM Says:

    Scribd is a POS. But I think I’ve figured what they’ve done with those $8 million of VC funding they just got — they hired a bunch of sockpuppets to go on astroturfing around the blogs.

  98. Reddit_reader Says:

    Below is all I get when I go to the scribd link. I agree,
    it’s pretty damn sucky!

    Hello, you have an old version of Adobe Flash Player. To use iPaper (and lots of other stuff on the web) you need to get the latest Flash player.

  99. David Says:

    Scribd isn’t just a huge mistake, it’s a huge pile of active wrongness. Just because you can render crap in Flash does not mean you should make a Flash viewer for existing document types.

    I refuse to follow links that go to Scribd, and actively encourage others to do the same.

  100. Lance Says:

    Hi there, I don’t know if this is an issue with Firefox3 or what but your site doesn’t have any padding or spacing on the left thus the text is nearly flush with the edge of the browser window. It makes everything annoying to read. Just thought I’d let you know.

  101. Ibrahim Hussein Says:

    This is just so funny…
    Its the same thing I was thinking of Scribd but I never thought of blogging about it. lol
    Nice Post …. :)

  102. Crap Cannon Says:

    Scribd is about as useful as a Crap Cannon.

  103. jjq Says:

    I think scribd is great to share documents, you can create groups and start discussions, find similar books and people that share your tastes.

    You can save the documents in pdf, txt, etc.

    You can copy & paste (look for the cursor in the ipaper, select text and hit ctrl+c)

    I don’t see any differences between the pdf and the scribd version.

    If you don’t like it don’t use it. Downlaod the pdf and kiss adobe’s ass.

    Pointless blog entry ever.

  104. business Says:

    Wow. Scribd, you just got served.

  105. RIchard Hollerith Says:

    I what the OP says is true — that scribd.com prevents cutting and pasting and prevents conversion of the documents to common formats like text, html or pdf, then scribd sucks.

  106. gus Says:

    I just get a blank white box when I go to scribd to view the document.

  107. Wtf Says:

    WTF? I can select, copy and print. I don’t see any scrollbars on the left either. If you hate scribd, don’t use it. Scribd lets a number of formats (ppt, pdf etc.) available to people who donot have appropriate viewers installed. Most do have Flash installed.

  108. Greg Says:

    I am the webmaster for my County. We have over 29 million (27 terebytes) of Official Record documents (deeds, mortgage, etc) we serve in pdf format. By moving them to scribds’ iPaper format we will be able to embed google ad words that are relevant to each document.

    With about 20 million page views per year we are going to generate almost $5 million in ad revenue.

    Thats why I like iPaper.

    [Good luck w/ that. I the Future of your Country isn't resting on that expected $5m. -- WR]

  109. Joe Says:

    This seems worse than Safari’s built-in PDF viewing, which lets you select and copy text without a special mode, gives you a true native scrollbar, and makes it obvious how to save the PDF if you want to. PDF may suck, but wrapping it in Flash sucks even worse.

  110. Matt Says:

    Whats the big deal? Is this doc viewer that bad? I tried to look at it, but I couldn’t because Flash doesn’t work very well in a 64-bit Firefox. I’m sure it is a lot cooler looking than html though..

  111. mike Says:

    @Greg: LOL… oh man… you do realize that Scribd will get majority of those hits, right??

    LMAO! If you’re in charge of your County, you need to be fired ASAP!

  112. paul grahamcracker Says:

    first off: this is a company valued at more than $17 million; anyone that says it has failed is a moron.
    Secondly, this is a company that is going to get sued. Having a site whose main purpose is to steal books is just not sustainable.
    so yes, scribd will die. and it will die at the hands of lawyers.

  113. Dennis Rivers Says:

    I have been experimenting with scribd and Ipaper and everyone I show it to likes the page-turning and zooming features. The problem I have with scribd is that I am not sure they can keep up with the bandwidth demand. Their biggest advantage IMHO is that they are faster than a pdf. One the delivery crawls, their advantage is totally gone, which I fear will be the case when they get
    millions of users looking at millions of documents. Their document delivery is already hitting bottlenecks now. I wrote to the developers and suggested that they license the technology so that the millions of documents could be on thousands of servers, rather than just the scribd servers, but I did not hear back from them. I hope others will suggest the same. I would certainly pay a couple hundred bucks for an Ipaper kit that I could install in my cgi-bin.

  114. Clive Says:

    When Scribd first started Google gave it a lot of ‘juice’ in rankings. Consequently marketers such as myself used it to get high PR backlinks to our sites and even links, from within documents, to our products.

    Late last year Scribd made this harder to do – no clickable links in profiles and not sure re .pdf uploads. At the same time they covered every available inch of white space with Adsense and other ads.

    Pot/Kettle/Black etc. but that’s OK as it appears Google Juice him all gone :-)

  115. Timmy Jose Says:

    This whole discussion is hilarious!

    For one, I was not aware that stating the facts would bring so much of active aggression out of ADD-inflicted folks who do not have the patience to check out a site before delivering their death-sentences.

    @Bob, Justin, JT and Paul -

    Thanks for the support mates. The sad fact is that telling the truth is not enough for some folks. They probably want drama, abusive language and bombast. And maybe all the features of a mature site in a single page, plain page with oversized fonts and arrows pointing them to the options.

    @All the hecklers –

    Read above.


  116. Julie Says:

    “an idiot will post a link to a document there”

    I use Scribd quite a bit, offering both a PDF file as well as a link to Scribd. Some people don’t like the forced start of an app to read the PDF. Plus, I can embed the Scribd doc in my blog posts.

    I’ve found it a convenient way to organize docs online by categories, etc. and provide an RSS feed to my readers. So, I can, instead of linking to all individual posts where they might find, for example, free project sheets, just link to the Scribd folder. There’s all kinds of handy things about it.

    But if you just want to go f**k Scribd, I guess that’d give you something fun to do for about a minute.


  117. Hermeneutic Says:

    Isn’t the main problem with Scribd that of copyright? As an example, there must be pretty much every DABS/Idiot’s/O’neill reference book up there

    Kind of like a Napster for documents.

  118. Hermeneutic Says:

    … and it’s got the most apalling search tool (or, at least, the results are laughably random)

  119. Scott Macdonald Says:

    YouPublish fills in many of the gaps left behind by Scribd. For one, you can select your Copyright level, set your price for your products you publish (or you can share them for free), and the site’s in line viewer can preview almost any kind of document (not just PDFs). Check it out at:

    www dot youpublish dot com

  120. wdr1 Says:

    I’m closing comments on this post. At this point are just saying the same thing over & over again. If you’d really like to comment, I’ll leave the followup open: