TractisTractis, which recently came out of private beta, allows you to negotiate and execute worldwide legally binding contracts online. Tractis’ focus is making e-commerce more safe by providing not only digital signing of contracts, but conflict resolution and micro-insurance services. Today, they officially open their doors for Spain and plan to eventually make their service available worldwide. Tractis is useful for all types of contracts, whether you’re selling an item on eBay, providing creative services over the Internet, or sending a non-disclosure agreement. It allows anyone to easily organize, collaborate, and sign contracts online, all in one place. Digital signing of contracts is a very interesting space with only a handful of companies in it. EchoSign is one company offering the digital signing of documents online which I have used numerous times with excellent results. DocuSign is another company which recently received $12.4 million in funding for its electronic signature service.

Aside from signing contracts, Tractis also provides a database of contract templates which anyone can save to their account and use for free. Right now you’ll find non-disclosure agreements, design service agreements, and contracts for the selling of goods. (Goodbye lawyers!) But where do these contacts come from? The answer is other Tractis users. In your account, you can create contract templates and make them publicly available for others to use. This is a great idea and I definitely see the value in it, however, I can’t help but feel uneasy knowing they are from users that are likely not lawyers. (Lawyers, come back!) On the plus side, templates are open for all to edit, rate, and comment on. Also, Tractis plans to roll out a reputation system in the next few months that would allow users to rank other Tractis users, according to Business 2.0 Magazine.

Tractis Templates

Additionally, Tractis is a collaborative environment for your contracts. Invite your whole team and the people you are sending contacts to. Start a contract from scratch or from a template, make changes, revert to older versions, and add comments. When you’re done preparing the contract, invite your client to review and digitally sign. If the client isn’t in agreement, you can discuss and edit the contract right then and there with them. One thing to keep in mind is the person signing the contract will need a Tractis account. This is said to be for identity protection reasons, but I’d personally prefer sending a contract to anyone, whether they have an account or not. Also, as of now, each digital signature will cost you 1 Euro, so be sure to increase your balance before sending off a contract to a client.

What’s more important, are contracts sent using Tractis legally binding? Even now I have clients questioning the legality of signing a document over EchoSign, even though E-Signatures were legalized in the year 2000 (see, E-Signature Act). I will admit the concept does seem questionable, but Tractis does guarantee that contracts are not only legally binding, but valid worldwide. At the same time, it’s hard to trust a guarantee when pages like contact, about, and terms of use are missing from the website. (I believe the content did exist during the private beta, but seem to have disappeared at public launch – oops!) Let’s hope they get that fixed quick! (Update: I’ve spoken with David Blanco, founder of Tractis, and have been told that they are working on new content and translated versions for the website.)

Tractis Contract

Working with Tractis is much like typing a document in a web-based word processor, or a contract focused Writeboard with basic contact management. You create and edit contracts in a WYSIWYG editor, invite users to collaborate, and eventually save for signing. And this works great, except my biggest complaint is that you cannot upload existing contracts that you might have, something that EchoSign does very well. Tractis also lets you create groups of people, find new people on Tractis, download vCards, and add people to your team. And what would a collaborative application be without being able to customize your interface to match your company? Nothing too fancy – you can change colors and replace the Tractis logo with your company logo.

As I brought up earlier, Tractis also allows you to create templates which can be used to start off new contracts. You can browse the public database of templates, edit as needed, and add them to your account for easy access. Very helpful, but they are no more than basic documents of legal agreement containing filler spaces and strings like “(Your Company Name).” They work fairly well, but one slight annoyance is having to replace thirty or so “(Your Company Name)” tags in a template by hand. The templates would be much more useful if there was a way to somehow mass replace a string with a new value, or perhaps create a custom markup or generate a form that fills in the information for you. Either way, the templates do save a lot of time, not to mention possible lawyer fees.

Tractis - Signing a contractSigning a contract with Tractis is a bit more involved than using a service like EchoSign, but Tractis has decided to take extra measures to verify the identity of a signer. When signing a contract with Tractis, you are to provide a digital certificate. Now, to be honest, I don’t expect the average person to have a digital certificate, let alone know what one is. So, for those of you who don’t know what a digital certificate is, it’s an electronic document issued by a certificate authority that basically contains some data proving you are who you say you are. As of now, Tractis is only accepting digital certificates issued by a group of pre-selected Spanish certificate authorities, but plan to connect with more authorities wordwide as they go. (Current accepted authorities – translated by Google) Because of these measures, Tractis can confirm the identity of you and the signer and offer their planned services of micro-insurance and dispute resolution. (Certainly a huge task) Once you’ve got a certificate, you’re set to continue to the next hurdle of having Java 1.6 installed on your machine which allows Tractis to upload and verify your certificate. Sorry Mac users, you can’t sign because Mac’s latest Java version is 1.42 – unfortunate, I know.

Once you get passed having a digital certificate and Java 1.6 on your machine, you can finally sign a contract. It’s all simple from here on and you just have to check the box stating that you agree and click sign. It verifies the form and submits your signature and lets contract participants know. I feel the whole process of signing a contract may be a bit much for the average person, but it certainly does add a sense of trust and security to the signing, which is exactly what Tractis was aiming to do in making e-commerce more safe. Although, I’m not sure I’d want a client of mine to go through all of that. Fortunately, I’ve been told that there are plans for additional methods of authentication and signing, including “Accept/Clickwrap” agreements, but will strongly recommend the use of digital certificates.

Even though Tractis is out of private beta and officially launched for Spain today, they still have a ton of work ahead of them. I expect it will be a while until Tractis is available for U.S. users, but I definitely look forward to using Tractis when it becomes available. What I like most is the public database of templates and the ability to collaboratively edit a contract before making an agreement, features Tractis’ competitors do not have. I don’t necessarily trust the public templates just yet, but they are nice to have around as reference and to act as a starting point. I also found the signing process to be a bit much for my line of work (creative services), although my opinion on that would change if “Accept/Clickwrap” agreements are implemented. I just wouldn’t want to have my clients create an account on Tractis just to sign a contract and then have to deal with providing a digital certificate. I do, however, see the value in requiring digital certificates when handling large transactions, such as buying a car from a random user on eBay. In all, I feel Tractis is building an impressive service and I hope to use it when it’s ready worldwide. Until then, I’ll stick with EchoSign and the old-fashioned way of signing contracts (pen and paper).


41 Comments on “Forget Paper and Sign Contracts Online With Tractis”

  1. Jason M. Lemkin says:

    Brian – one note on EchoSign you may find of interest. On collaboration, we made a decision to partner with who we feel is best-of-breed, Zoho. Zoho offers native full integration with EchoSign straight from Zoho Writer (http://www.echosign.com/public/static/zohoWriter.jsp). It has the downside of course of being two apps, but the upside of letting each focus on what they do best.

  2. LawStudent says:

    This solution may work for certain documents, but I would be very hesitant to utilize any such document in practice.

    Why? Each jurisdiction has different laws and certain terms may not work out under state law.

    But someone else posted it? Right. Who prepared it for them? Sure, they haven’t had any trouble…yet. A lawsuit could be waiting in the wings.

    Free legal documents are great until something goes wrong.

  3. A Lawyer says:

    Lawyers always use document templates. It would be silly to have to re-invent the wheel for each new agreement you have to come up with. How inefficient it would be if every time you had to draft a motion you had to do it from scratch?

    That being said, the document that you eventually come up with based on the template is only as good as the lawyer who creates it.

    Also, Tractis right now is very Euro-Centric, seeing that it is being developed mainly in Spain. At least this site is more geared towards lawyers. Docstoc has tons of documents, but I think it is getting out of control over there personally.

  4. Not a Lawyer says:

    Hmmm, I think the template issue is unimportant. Lawyers can use whatever they want. On top of that I don’t think this can be called eurocentric, even if we all like that word a lot. The power of that system resides in its compatibility with digital signature. Scratch the surface a bit and you’ll see.

  5. A Lawyer says:

    Well its definitely not American/British Common law-centric. Last time I checked most of the agreements templates (about 50+) were EU and/or in Spanish. I don’t want to get on a “America/UK/English Language isn’t the centre of the world” thing here but the developers are in Spain and the currency on teh site is in Euro’s.

    This is all besides the point because I agree with you that the whole point is the digital signature and having an accessible contract management system.

    And their idea itself is great:

    “Our goal is to provide a way to make online borderless justice possible. Yeah, you heard us right. We want to develop a new legal system that overcomes the inefficiencies, complexities, injustices and sluggishness of traditional legal systems. We want justice for, from and by the Internet nation.”

    I applaud this. The legal system is very inefficient and anything that makes life easier is great. At the same time contracts are only handy when something goes wrong and you have to enforce them. I think the more interesting aspect of this experiment will be when that happens, especially since their “goal” is borderless justice.

    I don’t want to get stuck in a semantics game though. In the end, I think its a great idea. That’s why I’ve been testing the site for a while now.

  6. things to look at (October 9th - October 10th) | stimulant says:

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  7. Josh P. says:

    I like the _idea_ of Tractis but as other have said, a lot of the documents are quite focus on EU and Spain…making it significantly less useful at the moment.

    I do imagine it will be a great source for freelancers and small businesses once they open the doors a bit more.

  8. Atlanta New Homes says:

    I love how much the ecommerce world is embracing this Web2.0 way of doing things now. I, for one, think this is a great idea.

  9. Alojamento says:

    Seems like a very good and useful idea to me, I hope it spreads much more tru the world.

  10. David Blanco says:

    Hello,

    This is David Blanco, part of the team behind Tractis.

    Just a quick line to say thanks Brian for an excellent review. I do believe is the best written and most thoroughly researched review we have received so far. It captures perfectly “the moment” Tractis is right now.

    Some of the things you point out (Help, Terms of use, etc… in English) are no-brainers and we expect to have them really soon. We rely on collaborators to translate Tractis into other languages so internationalization deadlines are a little bit unpredictable but it’s going to happen for sure.

    Regarding feature suggestions, yesterday we released the “variables mass-replace” feature you were asking for and tonight you’ll be able to import/export templates/contracts in Tractis. We plan to release the Tractis API this November.

    Thanks all for your comments and encouragement.

  11. shiv says:

    I am reading in java question paper

  12. Digital Contracts « bdyer.co.uk says:

    [...] For a comprehensive review check out SolutionWatch.com. « Adobe MAX – Day Two Report [...]

  13. Ben Dyer says:

    Some interesting comments. Just to let you know, I have used tractis twice now for some very low level contract work and its been fantastic. Its literally saved days.

    I will be very interested to see how this service expands.

    Thanks for the tip off Brian.

  14. Emo says:

    Cool new concept but will this increase fraud? I believe online signatures can be easily hack in some way..

  15. Wreck says:

    Thanks for the writeup.

    I have just checked them out, and grabbed a template and the concept looks promising.

  16. Mike Taylor says:

    I am all for going paperless. I currently use Docusign and both my clients and I love it. It makes things so much easier and paperwork is so much easier to retrieve in digital format. I wish everyone else would catch up.

  17. Ken from Chicago says:

    Going paperless is the way to go. Been working on the move to a paperless, or at least a paper reduced office. Thanks for the info.

  18. John From Indy says:

    Paperless is the future in my world of Real Estate. If we can get the public to buy into the idea of this concept we could streamline the process and cut a lot of time and wasted energy. It would be great to have a system that not only could you offer a contract digitally but see the final results in real time. I AM IN!

  19. NFS says:

    i think that paperless has a huge potential nowadays. But that will take a lot of time!

  20. Keeton says:

    I’m in agreement with the paperless concept – I’m pushing for paperless EVERYTHING. I think Tractis has some really nice features, but (as I’ve mentioned on some other blogs) I’d be concerned about getting sued over providing poorly written legal contracts – not that they are, just that they could be.

    When we built http://www.signatureconfirm.com, the idea was similar, but with a little less legalese and a little more focus on a quick process. I’m of the opinion that if you think you think you’ll be in court over a contract, you probably shouldn’t be signing it in the first place.

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    [...] Forget Paper and Sign Contracts Online With Tractis [...]

  22. DUI says:

    It is cool, but I would also be concerned with fraud. Maybe I am a bit paranoid though??

  23. Pepa says:

    I’m very sorry to see that Solutionwatch.com is dead :-( last post from Oct 07… Noone to take over?

  24. Diets says:

    I guess it is dead pepa. Shame 2. :O(

  25. Logo Designers says:

    Tractis sounds great for convenience but no one will know how good it is until someone has to go to court with a Tractis E-Signature. As of today the Legal Notice on the site is coming soon. I guess its better than nothing for an upstart company that cant afford a lawyer.

  26. Goedkoop Lenen says:

    Nice article, I’m looking forward, reading to future write downs!

  27. Cajun Seasonings says:

    I doubt that it will hold in court, but it’s a good start for a mom and pop operation.

  28. Baby says:

    this is a very nice idea about signing contract online, but I think people need more time to change their previous “ritual” by using singing contract on paper.
    very nice review, thanks!

  29. Jon Marks says:

    electronic signatures are now both accepted and admissible in a court of law. However if you were my client I’d suggest getting everything in writing, especially if you were getting paid for anything and/or you were an “evil business”. Courts and juries like to favor the payer over the payee.

  30. beauty blog says:

    I agree… ask anyone I know… I’m the last person that wants things in writing since we are in the digital age but when it comes to contracts… I need it in black and white. Unless I know I have 23423423 backups of that digital contract… I feel confident and secure to have it backed up on paper.

  31. Vending Guy says:

    This may work well for long distance contracts but how does this work for face-to-face interactions? Personally if I deal with my clients in person I’m going to use a papr contract.

    I guess I’d try it out for a long-distance client. If they are going to try to mess you over there are better ways to do it.

    Just my two cents :-)

  32. petnos says:

    good idea on this days.

  33. Scott Kuhn says:

    Online contracts are a great idea. I just find that paper contracts will always be there. Having everything on paper is a great back up. Call me old school but I’m sticking with paper contracts.

  34. Wayne in Columbus GA says:

    I absolutely look forward to paperless. Makes things so much easier. I was reading lately about a digital signature Real Estate closing. I look forward to the day. :)

  35. Wrestling Posters says:

    Paperless contracts are gonna be the thing of the future. As long as you have all your files back up I don’t see their being a problem having everything computerized. Its the future so might as well bring it in sooner rather then later.

  36. Wczasy na Kaszubach says:

    Paperless seems to be a good solution in nature, cost cut and etc. but strenght of the paper will nEVER be underestimated and outsided. No “golden middle” for electronic sugnatures. Security is very liable.

  37. olga says:

    My name is Olga and I work for a company that specializes in digital signatures.
    I also agree that digital signature solution are paperless and safe solution for not only e- commerce, but also for old fationed organizations
    If you’re interested, there’s some useful background (non-commercial) information about digital signatures at http://www.arx.com/digital-signatures-faq.php

  38. China 2008 Olympics says:

    It seems a bit risky to me because of various legal requirements. Know what I mean? I’m just not sure.

  39. HTC Touch Diamond Review says:

    Is this safe? What if it gets hacked?

  40. Martin says:

    At a glance certainly looks impressive , I was thinking of a safe way to do exactly what this appears to do , has this been trailed and reported on ?

  41. Internet Website Design says:

    At the end of the day you will always need a paper backup. Hard drives/Data Storage can always get corrupted, crash, or stolen.