The June 2, 2003 issue of Business Week, in the Technology & You column titled Just Click on the Dotted Line by Stephen H. Wildstrom, reports on the current state of digital signatures. The column points out that in the dot-com boom, the focus was on using the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) for online signing. That approach never took off because the PKI is complex to manage. Instead, the “digital signature most likely to dominate will strongly resemble the pen-and-ink kind.” The column reports that notaries will endorse a system that uses computer files instead of logbooks to witness signings. The combined hardware-software package will also save a digital version of the ink signature.
I spent 5 months working for a dot-com, iLumin, that provided an online signing solution. At the time (early 2001), it seemed to make so much sense that traditional signatures would be replaced by online signing. The failure of the PKI-based approach to catch on was a good lesson in why not all promising new technologies are adopted. Among the lessons: a new approach has to have compelling benefits over existing ones – for everyone affected by the changes – to be adopted.