empty electric sockets
The acquisition of LinkedIn and SlideShare signaled the end for Docs.com PHOTO: Paul

Microsoft has announced that it will be closing Docs.com, its file-sharing service, effective December 15 of this year, making it the first internal software casualty arising from the Redmond, Wash.-based giant’s late-2016 acquisition of LinkedIn

Marketplace reaction to the announcement has been muted thus far, underscoring the fact that Docs.com never really caught on since its launch seven years ago and has been living on borrowed time since Microsoft’s introduction of OneDrive. 

Too Much Competition for Docs.com

In fact, it was the creation of OneDrive and other Microsoft sharing services that started the terminal decline of Docs.com, and the acquisition LinkedIn and SlideShare that really hammered the last nail into the Docs.com coffin.

By now, SlideShare, a slide hosting service which LinkedIn bought in 2012, is more widely used than Docs.com and offers more functionality. 

A More Cohesive Experience 

In a statement about the decision, Microsoft explained that, “SlideShare … represents the ideal platform for publishing your Word, PowerPoint and PDF content, with its audience of 70 million professionals, and vast content library.” 

Noting that, “For custom sharing, OneDrive offers additional tools, permission settings and security to help share and protect your data and content, [with] the retirement of the Docs.com service, we hope to streamline our offerings in this space and provide you with a more cohesive experience.”

A Good Idea at the Time

Docs.com was launched in 2010 at Facebook’s annual developer conference. It was built on the idea that by working together, Facebook users would be able to share and collaboratively edit Microsoft Office documents.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. As social media began to take off, Docs.com looked like an excellent way for Microsoft users to get work done and share documents on Facebook. As the brainchild of Microsoft Research FUSE labs, Docs.com allowed Facebook users to add documents to their Facebook profiles and share posts containing files as easily as they could post photos or videos.

Users could also switch documents back and forth between the web and desktop, providing Office Online with some high-demand social features. What’s more, in 2015, the site was redesigned to work along with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF files and Microsoft’s newer file format, Sway, to make files discoverable to search engines.

Big Changes at Google and Facebook

However, the world of social work was changing rapidly. Google kept adding to its productivity suite of apps and had introduced G Suite, which offered workplace collaboration and sharing capabilities.

Meanwhile, Facebook no longer needed Microsoft because it was developing Workplace by Facebook as a collaboration platform that would enable users to communicate via groups and chat with colleagues in corporate environment.

Were PII Leaks the Last Straw?

In short, Docs.com has been struggling, and it’s possible that the recent, inadvertent leak of Docs.com users’ personal information onto the web was the final straw for Microsoft.

That leak resulted in personally identifiable information (PII) such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license information, birthdates, mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses being made public. 

This happened because, while most document and file-sharing sites default their uploaded content to private, Microsoft had set its default setting for Docs.com document uploads to public. This forced Docs.com users to opt-in in order to keep their information private.

While Microsoft didn’t quantify the extent of its data leak, it was an embarrassment for the company. Just as it was positioning Office 365 privacy as unassailable, Docs.com was exposing some of that information as part of Office Online.

Start Moving Your Files 

Moving forward, Microsoft is automating the transition of files from Docs.com to OneDrive and clarifying its privacy policies. Its statement reads, “SlideShare is intended for public posting. We want its users to purposefully manage which files they want to publish publicly on the web, and to add their own structure, titles and descriptions to their content.”

For those who are using Docs.com, the clock is ticking. There will likely to be more on this as the date draws nearer, but everything needed to move files is available right now. As the countdown to December continues, it’s not too early to begin the process of migrating your Docs.com files.