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Google Trends graph of PDF.

PDF just keeps going and going…

When people talk to me about PDF technology they are generally pretty happy about it. End users feel that they can really understand PDF; it works exactly as you’d expect digital paper to work; simple, reliable and effective. And it’s SO popular!
About the author: As CEO of the PDF Association and as an ISO Project Leader, Duff coordinates industry activities, represents industry stakeholders in a variety of settings and promotes the advancement and adoption of … Read more
Duff Johnson

Duff Johnson
February 7, 2020


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Whenever I talk to journalists, CIOs and records-managers some variation of the same question arises over and over again:

"How much longer do you think we'll use PDF?"

Rabbit beating a PDF drum.In most cases the question is accompanied by a look that's also become familiar; the "please don't change everything again; I need PDF!" look. Why is that?

Discussions about PDF technology with regular users show me that they are generally (with notable exceptions) happy about it. They feel that they can really understand PDF; it works exactly as you'd expect digital paper to work, and then some. PDF is simple, reliable and portable, so much so that users don't think anything of "PDFing it", sending or opening a PDF file. Generally speaking, no logins, cookies or bandwidth is required; you either have the file or you don't. You can even scribble (ok, annotate) in the margin, or irrevocably redact content from the page; a job that used to require scissors or a grease pencil. Try that with a web page...

With PDF, everyone sees the same thing, every time they look at the document, forever. For documents, that's worth a lot. Rooted in a client-server model, the classical web stack technologies offer a unique value proposition driving information and distribution systems far beyond the power of mere paper, digital or otherwise.

On the other hand, many websites still amount to elaborate navigation to help users find the PDF documents they need.

Google Trends clearly shows that PDF is a technology that's not only far more relevant in 2020 than it was in 2004, it's represented in a far higher proportion of web-searches, even though search volume on Google has increased dramatically since that time.

Interest in PDF is pretty steady relative to web searches in general. Compared to searches for other technologies, that's pretty remarkable.

Google trends, PDF since 2004 shows PDF in 2020 PDF close to its peak.
Source: Google Trends, search for "PDF"
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