ThinkFree takes on Scribd

ThinkFree, the eight-year-old Microsoft Office alternative, seems to have startup envy. After raising $24 million and getting bought four years ago, the company has kept up with the new era by launching online and collaborative updates. But private document sharing is so yesterday. Now, following the overvalued Scribd, which is being widely described as the “YouTube of documents,” ThinkFree is adding ThinkFree Docs, pitching itself as a “Flickr of documents.” Somehow the distinction escapes us.

We don’t really understand the need for building a public community around documents — but apparently it’s the hot new thing. ThinkFree offers the added benefit of mature document viewing technology, its core product, for which it has attracted 275,000 users to the free online version and “several hundred thousand users” to the paid offline version, according to Jonathan Crow, ThinkFree director of marketing. The company offers tools for .doc, .xls and other files, but doesn’t support PDFs.

Said Crow in an interview on Monday, “What we think we’re doing differently is Scribd is going for a lot more general of an audience whereas our audience is more Microsoft Office-centric.”