Document startups in chaos as Adobe's Flashpaper discontinues

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A number of European startups – and many others globally – will be thrown into chaos today with the news that Adobe is discontinuing development of its Flashpaper product.

Adobe will continue to sell and support the current FlashPaper 2 version, but won’t be updating the technology to support Microsoft Windows Vista and IE7, which will make it virtually worthless.

The news will hit US sites like Scribd and Docstoc, and European sites like the UK’s edocr and Germany’s Twidox which only recently won funding. edocr currently bases all its document sharing on Flashpaper.

Twidox CEO Nicholas MacGowan von Holstein contacted TechCrunch UK today to say the move would have a major impact: “What about all the websites that have been storing all their documents with Flashpaper? It will be a major job having to transfer all those documents to a new solution.” Twidox will not be badly hit as they have alternatives planned, he said. He said he only found out about the move from Adobe “after writing to them three times directly.”

Adobe’s site says:

“After careful consideration and analysis of both the marketplace and customer feedback, Adobe plans to discontinue new feature development for FlashPaper. The demand has continually declined to where it is no longer economically viable for Adobe to continue development support for FlashPaper.”

  • Kosso

    wow. I was going to be adding support to FlashPaper stuff to Phreadz. I’ll put that on the backburner for now then.

    Any explanation for this move? possibly due to all the new stuff in Acrobat?

  • Chris

    No surprises – it has been ignored since Adobe bought Macromedia and they haven’t been supporting Flashpaper since late last year. They’ve been pointing developers at Share but it doesn’t have the same functionality.

  • Manoj Ranaweera

    We have known this almost from Day 1 and was confirmed by Adobe at FOWA07 (verbally). Our strategy has always been to replace Macromedia Flashpaper at some point in the future with our own flash paper similar to the strategy adopted by Scribd. We will take all steps necessary to ensure minimum disruption to our userbase, when this happens.

    In the meantime, users do not need to be overly concerned as the current version of Flashpaper works well within the edocr environment. If anyone has concerned, please feel free to contact me direct on 07769734491.

    Best regards

  • Ian Betteridge

    There’s a lesson here for any start up about not relying on technology which only has a single supplier – something which corporates are usually aware of, but which new businesses don’t consider.

    In other words, don’t become part of someone else’s “ecosystem” unless you’re damn sure they will never pull the plug on it, or have an alternate supplier which you could easily switch to.

  • Emil Tamas

    Correction…Scribd isn’t using Flash Paper since a while. They have switched to a custom solution based on Open Office and other nifty open source tools (hence the big number of Office formats they support, among the native OO ones).

  • Manoj Ranaweera

    Ian, there are other solutions that could easily be switched to. Our plan has always been to develop our own that would give a better user experience than what we currently have.

    At edocr, flashpaper is just a tool (important tool, but nevertheless it is a tool). edocr is not just about flashpaper – and I believe it may be true about the whole industry segment.

    In case of Scribd, they are also attempting to make iPaper a replacement to Macromedia flash paper. Ideally, they love both edocr and docstoc (plus others I assume) to user iPaper. The difficulty is that they also want to host the documents.

    If they are serious about the business, my recommendation is to offer iPaper as a license product – this will open a decent revenue channel for them. Wonder why they are not pushing this. Reading between the lines, it could be something to do with “exit value” (pure speculation of course!!).

  • Jon Gilkison

    FlashPaper is garbage, which is why they discontinued it.

    Print2Flash is a similar solution that works better, we’ve been using it on since we launched a couple of years ago. Does the exact same thing but is way more solid.

  • Mohammad Al-Ubaydli

    @Emil Tamas – can you explain more about the tools the Scribd is using? Sorry to reveal my ignorance but I had no idea that provided tools that could run in the browser. I am also interested in knowing about the other open source tools.

    @Ian Betteridge – agreed. Anyone getting a similar vibe about Google App Engine? I am thinking of using it for my company and hoping that I could move the Python / Django stack somewhere else if disaster ever struck.

  • Sanford

    Over here at FileOpen Systems we’ve been developing a secure alternative to FlashPaper. There’s a contact form on our site of anyone wants a demo.

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  • Nicholas

    The problem is that print2flash only supports Windows, and not other systems such as Linux. Also, how much trust can you invest into another company that uses a product that will be discontinued.

    It seems strange that no one has filled the void. It will be interesting to see what edocr develops, but would it not make sense for a start-up to create one solution to the problem, rather than Scribd, Docstoc, edocr and us (twidox) all developing our own product?

    @ Manoj – let’s talk some time. If you want, contact me via XING.

  • Emil Tamas

    @Mohammad Al-Ubaydli – OO can export anything to PDF (even SWF directly for Powerpoint related slides, to a certain degre).

    From PDF, you can convert to SWF directly by using other open source tools.

  • Gary Horsman

    @Ian Betteridge

    Like Microsoft?

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  • PJ Doland

    Now that Adobe has acquired Macromedia, wouldn’t it make more sense to just have the Flash plugin support embedding of PDFs?

    Maybe that’s why they’re discontinuing it.

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  • Manoj Ranaweera

    @Nicholas, I’m afraid I do not use Xing that often. Appreciate if you could drop an e-mail (manoj [at] ranaweera [dot] name). What you say makes sense. Hence my suggestion that Scribd considers licensing iPaper. My understanding is that significant resources have gone into producing it and it does not make sense for all us to develop our own.

    Perhaps, Scribd could respond here. Will ping Trip. It is also vital that any such product allows full branding.

  • Manoj Ranaweera

    Here is an idea, would the opensource community consider developing a replacement? This will ensure continuity and remove the reliance on commercial decisions.

  • Jason Bentley

    Scribd’s iPaper product is in no way related or dependent upon FlashPaper.

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  • Sei

    Yet another example of why closed proprietary filetypes are best avoided.

  • DBL

    If the world were a just and fair place, it would be absolutely impossible for Adobe to *ever* propose another standard without being laughed and ridiculed right off the public stage by a responsible press. But we all know that this is not what will happen. We all know that when Adobe does propose another standard of some kind, this fiasco will go barely mentioned and everyone will just swallow it up all over again. If makes no sense to you that humans would behave this way, consider that your press is bought and paid for — because it is.

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