Sign on the online line

Sign on the online line

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read
Our Web may be 2.0, but our legal system is not. Case in point: authorizing documents. To commit to most serious legal transactions, somebody has to sign something, on paper, in ink. With so much commerce happening online, the need to step outside of the Web to do the signing is slowing things down.

It's also unreliable. If you're looking at a signed piece of paper, how do you really know the signature on it was created by the person whose name is written? There's no metadata behind a written signature that helps you determine it's authenticity.

DocuSign, a company that's been around since 2003, is bringing the legal signature into the modern era. Already the company enables a document to get sent via e-mail to the person who needs to sign it. The e-mail contains a Web link, and on the Web, the signer confirms his or her identity (by answering personal questions provided by Verid, such as "What is your monthly mortgage?") and "signs" the document by clicking a Sign Here flag on screen. The entire transaction is recorded in minute detail--when it was signed, how it was authenticated, and where (which IP address) the signer was located. It provides much more verifiable information than a regular signature. DocuSign stands behind the veracity of the online signature and will back it up in court if need be. It's essentially an online notary.

The latest news is that DocuSign is now offering this capability completely "in session," that is, without requiring an e-mail step in the transaction. Businesses that want to sign (literally) people to a binding deal will no longer require that they wait for e-mail, or worse, physical delivery of a document. It should help companies close contracts faster.