Scribd: YouTube for Documents

Just a quick post to introduce readers to Scribd, a YouTube for documents.

Let’s explore that analogy. Before YouTube, videos were hard to share because they were too big to email and because there were various yucky formatting issues to resolve. YouTube solved this practical problem by letting you share videos via their site (instead of email) and they transparently dealt with all the yucky formatting issues.

I must admit that, while not an active video person at all, I have used YouTube to overcome a simple problem. We use PCs at home, while at school the kids use Macs. We needed to get a video that we produced on our home PC to my son’s teacher. After failing about 5 times to get a CD/DVD with the right formatting, I just uploaded it to YouTube and let the teacher watch it from there. Nice. (This was a while back when YouTube was still pretty new and the idea wasn’t so obvious.)

In general, these assertions are not true about documents. Size-wise, I can email about 95% of the documents that I use every day. Formatting-wise, about 95%+ of what I use is either Office or PDF.

And there is less, for lack of a better term, voyeuristic tendency to want to read other peoples’ documents than there is to see their images on Flickr or watch their videos on YouTube. And documents, much as I love them, aren’t on the brink of changing the entire television industry, either.

But there are some documents — the really big ones — that bounce on email. Scribd solves that practical problem. And once you’ve uploaded documents, why not do all the various and sundry social networking things to them (e.g., tag, digg) and why not make new document friends, just like we have work friends (LinkedIn), friend friends (MySpace), tweet friends (Twitter), photo friends (Flickr), and blog friends (blogrolls).

Will Scribd sell for $1.6B like YouTube did? It’s hard to believe. But it looks like they’re about to raise money at a valuation north of $10M. See this TechCrunch article for more.

Addition: VentureBeat has good coverage of Scribd here.

One response to “Scribd: YouTube for Documents

  1. Hey Dave – thanks for sharing your thoughts on scribd. Their technology is quite interesting.Have you had a chance to take a look at slideshare? (www.slideshare.net).Of all documents, I think that ppts have probably been the most difficult types of documents to share in a business context – they are often heavy and therefore difficult to share.However, leveraging the community to allow users to use others’slides and save time sounds a more common scenario than just sharing word documents.I’ve often started a building a ppt wishing I could check out if a slide library covering the same subject was available somewhere. Not long ago, for instance, I was trying to communicate the concept of performance management in 10 slides or less. My presentation needed core but typical content – things like typical marchitecture, flow…Had I known about slideshare, I could have browsed a large library of typical slides on the subject.One question reminds unanswered though. When freely sharing such content – where does one draw the line between ‘creatively leveraging the community’ and ‘broadly sharing proprietary content and discourage individual innovative thinking’?

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