DocuSign vs DotLoop eSign Security

Info For Pros · Read in 5 minutes 

DocuSign DotLoop eSign SecurityTracy Weir’s 16 minute video screencast from July 10, 2013, saved me time having to put together a video of the same exact purpose: actually demonstrating major differences between DotLoop’s and DocuSign’s eSign security.

In this article, we’re only comparing the generated PDF resulting from eSigning.

Disecting the Video Screencast

After providing a bit of history and describing what eSignatures are and the importance of using a secure eSign vendor (valuable information, indeed), she gets down and dirty comparing DotLoop’s and DocuSign’s PDF security:

7:43 Watch her eSign sample documents in both systems

10:17 Playing with DotLoop’s eSigned PDF

13:09 Playing with DocuSign’s eSigned PDF

If you’re in a hurry and just want to see the end result, start at 10:17 to watch Tracy change the content of the document, make it look like someone else signed it, and demonstrate how each PDF responds to the modifications. After you pick up your jaw off your desk, you can start the video over at the beginning.


To make sure we’re all on the same page now, let me boil it down for you:

  • Not all eSigning is the same. Technically, signing with your finger or your mouse (i.e. “drawing”) is an “electronic signature” (equivalent to facsimiles). Solutions like DocuSign, EchoSign, DotLoop, et. al. offer “digital signature” (digitally generated, not physically signed).
  • To simplify the above: Not all electronic signatures are digital signatures, but all digital signatures are electronic signatures (per Wikipedia)
  • Therefore, we’re discussing the security of digital signatures from DocuSign and DotLoop.

Tracy’s video clearly demonstrated DotLoop’s lack of PDF security and some of DocuSign’s impressive PDF security features.

Ditch DotLoop?

Okay, so now you’re wondering if you should totally ditch the DotLoop platform. Let me offer some “big picture” thoughts:

  • If everyone — banks, clients, brokers, MLSs, EVERYONE in the world in all industries — used a single eSign platform (e.g. DotLoop), then there wouldn’t be as much of a concern over the security embedded in a PDF document because we would all know that DotLoop is the original source of all eSigns that ever existed. Obviously, that’s not reality.
  • Because we all operate with PDFs instead of within a single eSign platform, we do care about PDF security. Every document system can send and receive PDFs. It’s the universal file format, the lowest common denominator, the offline/backup/archived version.

I can’t answer the “Ditch DotLoop?” question for you, but I can answer it for myself. End Zone Realty, like thousands of independent brokerages around the country, wants to minify our exposure to risk, which includes lawsuits and liabilities. We don’t want to have to expend resources toward defending the validity of using DotLoop’s eSign system if it should ever be challenged by a party to a transaction.

You might say, “But Keller Williams uses it nationwide.” To that, I can only say that they are either aware of the situation and are comfortable with their level of perceived risk, or they are unaware and therefore “but KW does” isn’t as strong of a position to take. Ultimately, KW has deeper pockets with which to take a firm position in court, should it ever come to that, and DotLoop surely would team up to defend their validity.

Thousands of brokerages use and are happy with DotLoop. I’m not saying DotLoop is bad. In fact, I recently stated the opposite: I like that DotLoop is an all-in-one system. I just wish its eSign security — specifically in PDF form — was as secure as DocuSign’s.

What does DotLoop Say?

I presented this information during my most recent conversation with a DotLoop broker representative. I was told that DotLoop’s internal system is where DotLoop documents and signature information lives and PDFs are more like a copy of that information (paraphrased). While I agree with this in principle (see the “if everyone used one system” bullet point, above), it’s not true in practice. I’ve heard this to be their position a number of times from various sources.

I spoke with a DocuSign executive and asked, “Why doesn’t everyone’s eSignatures have this level of PDF security?” I was told the certificate functionality is six-figures annually and it’s just the right way to do eSign and they’re not sure why others don’t do it this way. Granted, it’s not DocuSign’s problem; instead, it’s DocuSign’s opportunity.

Can DotLoop just pay more money and get better eSign? Sure. Everything’s just resources, right? But that wouldn’t benefit past signatures.

Going Forward

I’m not an attorney, but I’d guess that DotLoop’s eSignatures are legally binding. However, each case could be different. The DotLoop eSign process isn’t different from others’ (as you can see in Tracy’s screencast video) — login to verify identity, click the signature field to sign, click submit, and exit. The signer no doubt intended to sign so I’m not necessarily worried for any DotLoop signers or real estate professionals.

I just think choosing DocuSign for eSignatures is the smart choice, even though using DotLoop’s is an easier workflow if you’re already using DotLoop for forms (e.g. KW).

Cartavi, recently acquired by DocuSign, doesn’t have a broker-level offering at the time of this writing (expected this fall; I’m hoping for sooner than later). I think the Cartavi acquisition was strategically beneficial for both companies for a variety of reasons (who doesn’t love the word synergy?).

If you’re not using DotLoop for forms, you’re probably already using DocuSign if you’re doing eSign at all. ZipForm and Cartavi integrate with DocuSign, and DocuSign claims to be the most popular eSign service.

Bonus Reading:

Big Picture Conclusion

The real estate industry is going through fast-paced technology changes. Everything from listing syndication to agent reviews to reevaluating broker-provided services and understanding the differences of eSign alternatives.

3 to 5 years from now, I’m sure we’ll have more technology dilemmas and eSign (hopefully) will be more common, and DotLoop will flip the magic switch to make all their eSignatures super-duper secure.

Sitting where we are today, in this moment, I hope your eyes were opened a bit wider, your head hurts a little more now and a lot less later, and your business is better for the long-term.

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