Cross-posted from fastcompany.com[by Harry McCracken]
In the beginning, there was the 8 1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper, a standardized size for documents of many kinds. (In the U.S. by the early 20th century, at least—if you know for sure when it became the default, please let me know.)
Then, in 1993, came Adobe’s Acrobat software and its PDF file format. They solved the problem of putting a document on your computer screen that precisely matched the look and feel of its dead-tree version and could be easily shared, beating out several competing products that tried to do the same thing. Twenty-seven years later, PDF has defied would-be PDF killers, critics, and prognostications of its impending irrelevancy to remain ubiquitous. Currently, there are two and a half trillion PDF files out there, reckons Adobe; a half-billion people use its Acrobat tools even though PDF is an open standard supported by countless third-party alternatives.