The World Wildlife Federation announced the creation of its first file format, WWF, designed as a replacement for PDF. It’s essentially identical to PDF, except for one key difference: It can’t be printed. The WWF hopes this will reduce unnecessary paper use, or at least bring some attention to the fact that lots of paper use is unnecessary.
Though PDFs are impressively flexible and useful paper-replacement files, many people and businesses are simply more comfortable printing physical copies. In some cases, with larger businesses, universities, and other organizations, that can mean ridiculous amounts of paper used and discarded for little reason. The environmental impact of paper is a contentious topic, one I’m sure will be discussed passionately in the comments (i.e. theoretical sustainability vs. illegal logging and optional governmental “guidelines”), but anyone that’s worked in an office knows how much unnecessary printing happens on a regular basis.
The WWF format is essentially a plugin (Mac-only for now, but coming to Windows soon) that allows the user to save any document as a WWF. Those files can be opened and viewed in most programs used to open PDFs, except they can’t be printed (and they add a little note about saving paper to the bottom of documents).
Will the WWF format actually do any good, besides increasing awareness? It can’t stop a document from being printed, of course–users can always print screenshots. But in certain settings, especially business or educational, it might make sense to make it at least irritating to print some documents. A professor could forbid students from printing a hundred-page coursepack, for example. That’s all assuming anybody actually embraces the format, which is doubtful, but it’s not necessarily the worst idea ever.