The history of signatures online — from unknown to indispensable

How digital signatures have come to represent security, efficiency, and personality

  • Signatures online began over security concerns
  • Later, digital signing laws made online contracts mainstream
  • The demand for digital signatures is growing

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Online contracts: past, present, and future

Today, getting signatures online for contracts and other documents is an expected part of the modern workday, but this wasn’t always the case. In fact, before RightSignature was founded in 2008, the default way to get contracts signed for most small and medium sized businesses, and even large enterprises, included a complicated mix of printing, overnight shipping, and faxing. Before then, even though more and more of our lives had moved online, including socializing with friends and handling banking transactions, the simple act of getting signatures online was unheard of.

In discovering how your business can use digital signing to get more done, it can be useful to look at the history of signatures online to see just how far this exciting tool has come in such a short time.

1970s: Early digital signing: data verification and email signatures

What’s in a signature? It’s both a legal way to authenticate the identity of the signer and a unique personal statement. In this light, two very different technologies can be seen as the ancestors of the modern signatures online: complicated digital signing algorithms used for data verification, and the simple email signature.

Digital signatures were an early internet technology that was concerned mostly with cryptography. The anonymity of the internet presented a problem for sources like web pages to prove they were who they said they were. Digital signing that data made it possible to authenticate the source of these messages and establish trust online. Meanwhile, one of the first widespread applications of the early internet was email, which was dealing with a different problem. Comprised only of text, many emailers wanted to ensure that the email felt like it came from their voice. A short bit of text at the end, email signatures helped provide that essential bit of personality.

1990s: Digital signing laws worldwide establish a standard for signatures online

As the spread of the internet revolutionized the world in the 1990s, governments and businesses looked for new ways to take advantage of the technology. Quickly, online contracts emerged as an area of concern: would it be possible to establish a trusted, legally binding standard for getting signatures online for important documents? In the late 1990s and early 2000s, governments across the world including the US, EU, UK, Australia, China, Russia, and hundreds more passed laws establishing online contracts and digital signatures as the legal equivalent of their paper counterparts.

Today: Online contracts are an everyday necessity for more and more businesses

Instead of slow, paper-based solutions like fax and shipping, today’s business has a better option to get online contracts signed. Founded in 2008, RightSignature began as a way to change the way the world does business by offering an easier, faster way to get signatures online. With the security and personality gleaned from every era of the history of online contracts, it’s an easy way to upgrade your paperwork and save more time, so your business can get more done.

Find out how e-signature software can be the key to an all-digital workflow for your business.

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