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Wednesday, May 05, 2010, 04:30 pm PT (07:30 pm ET)

Scribd "scrapping Flash and betting the company on HTML5"

Document sharing site Scribd, which allows users to upload PDF, Word, PowerPoint, and other documents on the web using Adobe's Flash Player, has announced that it will begin converting its file service to HTML5, starting tomorrow.

A report by TechCrunch cited Scribd cofounder and chief technology officer Jared Friedman as saying, “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. Now any document can become a web page.”

Scribd's service will convert billions of documents into standard web pages supporting the pinch to zoom features of modern multitouch devices like iPad, as well as document wide search, bookmarks, and navigation controls. Shared documents or even books can be uploaded and shared through Twitter and Facebook.

The transition will begin tomorrow, with 200,000 of Scribd's most popular documents being converted to HTML5. Eventually, all of the company's shared documents will be migrated from Flash.

Ditching Flash for HTML5, like YouTube

Much like Google's YouTube service, Scribd originally used Flash to present shared documents due to limitations in previous web standards and the various implementations of those standards among web browsers. However, HTML5 is bringing a new level of interoperability to web browsers, along with sophisticated new features that don't require a separate proprietary plugin like Flash or Silverlight.

“Right now the document is in a box,” Friedman said, “a YouTube-type of experience. There is a bunch of content and a bunch of stuff around it. In the new experience we are taking the content out of the box.”

The report says Scribd has been working in secret on the project for the last six months. The new HTML5-based sharing service will use the new standard's native support for fonts, vector graphics, and rotating text.

Friedman estimated that 97% of web browsers will be able to read Scribd’s HTML5 documents, as the elements it uses are already widely adopted. Shared HTML5 documents can be embedded in existing pages using an iFrame.