Acrobat.com is growing like gang busters, with over 100,000 new people signing up each week. This is happening even though we are still in beta and have a long way to go before the product is “done.” Why is this happening, who is using online collaboration to change the way people work together, and what we are doing to make Acrobat.com the best choice out there?
First let me set some context, using a picture from the early 1830s. I first saw a similar picture in a business history class with Professor Richard Tedlow:
This is a picture of the first passenger locomotive in New York, the DeWitt Clinton. Tedlow showed us this picture for three reasons, as I remember it. First, because it is an exciting snapshot of innovation in motion where you can see the past and the future all at once. Second, like most early innovations it is pretty ugly and impractical for general use…among other things, the wooden stagecoaches tended to catch on fire as embers blew back from the locomotive. (For your consideration: what happened to the early adopters riding jauntily on top of them…and are those reins in that gentleman’s hands?) And most importantly, Tedlow showed us the picture because the children of such amalgamations transformed the way the world works in an astonishingly short period of time.
I believe we are at a similar point in time when it comes to online collaboration. You can see various amalgamations out there, like Google Apps, which cleverly combines email with rudimentary online authoring, or Microsoft SharePoint, which inevitably combines desktop software and enterprise servers with web 2.0 concepts like wikis. And while those amalgamations are exciting and show the promise of what is to come, we are learning from the millions of people coming to Acrobat.com that the full payoff from those offerings isn’t there yet for the vast majority of people. (Note to self: people still don’t like to have their top hats singed by burning embers, even when holding the reins).
We think we know what is missing. We intend for Acrobat.com to fill this gap between the promise and payoff of online collaboration, and in the process transform the way people work together. We are pursuing three key themes to close this gap, as my boss Rob Tarkoff described in a keynote at the OpSource SaaS Summit earlier this month. I think of the themes as the cloudification, socialization and consumerization of collaboration. (On semi-lyric language: I grew up near Chicago and regularly heard the Reverend Jesse Jackson on the TV news…plus I come from a long line of evangelical country preachers, so a little lyricism just naturally slips in now and then.)
Cloudification lets everyone work together on the same system with anywhere access. Socialization lets people control their own identity and work with others in a natural way. Consumerization lets people use services that are simple, beautiful and fun, and available for free and for purchase by anyone.
We are doing all this to improve collaboration, so that people can be more productive when working together. We are doing it with the beliefs that people can and will choose and use the collaboration services that work best for them, that technology has to be used to be useful, and that as a result people won’t just “use what is laying around” but will instead choose the best that is available.
And, of course, we want that choice to be Acrobat.com, so we are intent on building a great service and are therefore listening intently to what people who use our service are saying.
I’ll keep sharing facts and insights as we go, using the “100K People a Week” tag on this blog, each time going deeper into how Acrobat.com is advancing the Cloudification, Socialization, and Consumerization of Collaboration. You can also follow me on Twitter (@erikdlarson).
Next time: the importance of design, or maybe a little ditty about SharePoint, or maybe someone out in the world will say something clever that I just have to respond to.