PDF Celebrates Its 30th Birthday

Image: Adobe/The FPS Review

Feeling old yet? PDF, the now-ubiquitous file format that Adobe developed in 1992 to present documents digitally, including text formatting and images, has turned 30 years old today, having originally debuted on June 15, 1993, a relatively simpler time that preceded social media and other noise. According to a blog post that the PDF Association published this morning to celebrate the format’s 30th anniversary, PDF remains the second most common format on the internet despite its increasing age, beaten only by a little something called HTML. Adobe Reader, Adobe’s first-party option for viewing PDFs, has faced nearly 300 security vulnerabilities since 1999, according to CVE Details, a security vulnerability resource.

From a PDF Association post:

Thirty years after it was popularized, the World Wide Web has revolutionized the human experience of information. Meanwhile, PDF has replaced paper documents with digital analogues. Some expected the web to replace digital documents as well, but all indications are that PDF continues to grow. Many websites are – let’s face it – mostly navigation to help visitors find a specific PDF. Maybe that’s why, after HTML, PDF is the 2nd most common format on the internet. A recent survey by Bitkom Research in Germany showed that “PDF…has become indispensable for the vast majority of companies”.

Leveraging PDF (together with Adobe’s decision to make the PDF Reference freely available), 1993’s Adobe Acrobat and Reader were soon joined in the marketplace by many other commercial and open source applications. As with HTML, any developer could read or write PDF from the beginning; unlike HTML, the file controlled the experience, not the viewing software.

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