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Adobe launches new cloud-based eSignature service

Like everyone, I sign stuff, lots of stuff — NDAs, contracts, and all sorts of other documents. I always find myself frustrated with the signature process.

The simple act of signing doesn’t particularly bother me. It’s all the mundane tasks that need to be completed before and after signing that drive me batty.

First, I typically receive the document to be signed in electronic form — meaning I need to print it out to sign it. Then, I need to figure out how to get it back to the other party. In some cases, I might need to find an overnight envelope, fill-in the address form, stick the document in the envelope, seal the envelope, and then find a drop box. Depending on where I am, this could take up to an hour, round trip. (Did you know that people spend $7.4B/year overnighting documents just because a signature is needed?)

Or in some cases, I need to fax it back. Faxing might be quicker, but it’s no easier: (1) create a cover sheet, (2) print the cover sheet, (3) fill in the receiving parties information, and (4) walk down to the fax machine and stand next to it waiting for the transmission to complete. But wait, I’m not done — the person whom I’ve faxed it to usually wants an ‘original copy’! So now I’m back to hunting for an overnight envelope…

Oh brother.

There’s got to be a better way. Why can’t we just sign things electronically? In this Internet age, signing something really should be as easy and fast as sending an email.

It turns out that Adobe already has a big, well established business providing a highly secure digital signature capability into large banks, the military and a number of governments. In fact, we’re a market leader in digital signatures. The first digitally signed judicial order was executed using Adobe technology as was the FY 2011 US Federal Budget. We’ve built a digital signature capability into Adobe® Acrobat® and we have a server-side technology called Adobe® LiveCycle® that supports digital signatures in automated workflows. This type of digital signature requires sophisticated computer infrastructure that’s often beyond the reach of small businesses and individuals. And therein lies the opportunity — take our LiveCycle signature technology, put it in the cloud and simplify it to make it easy for everyday signatures.

Today we’re announcing the beta release of this service. We’re calling it Adobe eSignatures™. We wanted to create something that was easy to use, fast, accessible to anyone with an internet connection and a browser, and that wasn’t overloaded with complicated features.

The service is really convenient. Just go to Adobe eSignatures and sign-in. There you’ll find a very simple guided process that allows you to upload a PDF, designate the email address of the other party, and click to sign. You don’t need any special tokens or smartcards.

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Unlike paper documents, when a document is executed using Adobe eSignatures, it is certified to provide additional assurance that the document has not changed since it was signed. If you subsequently open the document in Adobe® Reader® or Adobe Acrobat you’ll see a blue ribbon at the top of the screen. If someone modifies a document after it has been signed, Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat will detect that something has changed and the blue ribbon will no longer appear.

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Adobe eSignatures complies with both the US ESign Act of 2000 and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA). According the US ESign Act, “signatures and records cannot be denied legal validity simply because they are electronic.”

So give it a try and let us know what you think. There’re a few things that we’d like to add to the service, but we want to hear from you first so that we can know what things are most important. We hope you’ll find our new service easy and convenient and we hope you’ll use it for all of your everyday signature tasks.

I look forward to hearing from you,
Paul McNamara
Entrepreneur in Residence, Cloud Computing

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