Scribd's Decision To Dump Flash Pays Off, User Engagement Triples

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You could call it the perfect storm.

Over the last few months, user engagement on Scribd has surged, according to CEO Trip Adler, thanks to its transition to HTML5, the introduction of the iPad, and Scribd’s Facebook integration. Of these three factors, Adler says the conversion from Flash to HTML5 was by far the greatest driver for his document sharing company. According to Scribd’s numbers, time on the site has tripled in the last three months.

In early May, Scribd announced its plans to ditch Adobe’s Flash and began the arduous process of converting every document (of its “tens of millions”) to native, HTML5 pages. “We are scrapping three years of Flash development and betting the company on HTML5 because we believe HTML5 is a dramatically better reading experience than Flash, “co-founder and CTO, Jared Friedman, told Erick Schonfeld. Although many documents on the web are still boxed into Flash players, the HTML5 format turns them into rich, interactive web pages.

That gamble has paid off handsomely for Scribd. Although the number of unique visitors still stands at roughly 50 million per month, those users are spending significantly more time perusing documents and sharing with friends.That growth in user engagement has rapidly accelerated in the past month. On May 25, at TechCrunch Disrupt, Friedman said user engagement had doubled— implying strong acceleration in the last three weeks.

The HTML5 play has also made Scribd’s product very iPad friendly and iPad users are responding in kind. According to Adler, although iPhones clearly outnumber iPads in the wild by a large margin, the number of users accessing Scribd through the iPad is now roughly equivalent with the number of users who are using their iPhone.

Now that the company has its HTML5 and iPad strategy in place, Adler says they are focusing on making Scribd more social and less reliant on search engines. Today, the majority of their traffic comes from Google, but Scribd is putting a greater emphasis on the social by closely integrating with Facebook.

Earlier this year, Scribd revamped its Facebook Connect option (enhanced content sharing and added an activity feed plug-in) and introduced Readcasting, which automatically tells your social networks, like Twitter and Facebook what you’re reading. According to Adler, those initiatives are growing: the number of people who are auto-Readcasting is increasing by roughly 10% each day and daily subscriptions to other users is up 15x (in the last three months). Quick video with Adler above.

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