The Portable Document Format was created in the early 1990s by Adobe Systems, and remained proprietary format until it was released as an open standard in 2008. Since then, it is under control of an International Organization for Standardization Committee of volunteer industry experts.
PDF was developed in the early 1990s as a way to share documents, including text formatting and inline images, among computer users of disparate platforms who may not have access to mutually-compatible application software. It grew out of a system called “Camelot” developed by Adobe’s co-founder John Warnock. PDF was one among a number of competing formats such as DjVu, Envoy, Common Ground Digital Paper, Farallon Replica and even Adobe‘s own PostScript format. In those early years before the rise of the World Wide Web and HTML documents, PDF was popular mainly in desktop publishingworkflows.
PDF’s adoption in the early days of the format’s history was slow. Adobe Acrobat, Adobe’s suite for reading and creating PDF files, was not freely available; early versions of PDF had no support for external hyperlinks, reducing its usefulness on the Internet; the larger size of a PDF document compared to plain text required longer download times over the slower modems common at the time; and rendering PDF files was slow on the less powerful machines of the day.
Adobe distributed its Adobe Reader (now Acrobat Reader) program free of charge from version 2.0 onwards, and continued supporting the original PDF, which eventually became the de facto standard for fixed-format electronic documents.
In 2008 Adobe Systems’ PDF Reference 1.7 became ISO 32000:1:2008. Thereafter, further development of PDF (including PDF 2.0) is conducted by ISO’s TC 171 SC 2 WG 8 with the participation of Adobe Systems and other subject matter experts.