Monday, September 15, 2008

Indexing Tora! Tora! Tora!

This is an inside joke for Orientals, mixing the Chinese word 'mediocre' and the Japanese 'Tora! Tora! Tora!' It was easy to cheer on both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch when I worked for Ancestry.com since Tim Sullivan continually reassured employees and the genealogy market that the two are not competitors. (One Ancestry.com employee is rumored to have asked human resources if that applied to the non-compete agreements that employees are required to sign. The employee was assured that insofar as non-compete agreements, FamilySearch is considered a competitor. I need to tell you someday about my situation, but for today's topic, I digress...)

I wondered if my multiple-competitor cheerleading days were over last week when FamilySearch reacted to Ancestry.com's indexing program announcement by issuing a statement titled, "FamilySearch Indexing is not affiliated with Ancestry's World Archives indexing program." Looking over it now, it doesn't seem quite as defensive as it did at the time. It must have been the timing, more than anything else that made it feel to me like FamilySearch was taking a hard, competitive stance against Ancestry.com.

Tim Sullivan then issued a message responding to the FamilySearch message reacting to the Ancestry.com announcement. Follow that? Anyway, apparently I wasn't the only one to interpret FamilySearch's message the way I did. Sullivan said that readers of the "message might get the impression that this is some big competition between Ancestry.com and the LDS Church."

"We definitely don't see it this way!" Sullivan again reiterated, saying there was plenty of work to go around. I hoped to include a table comparing the claims of the two organizations and my independent grade for each, but I've run out of time.

I can tell you from first hand experience that both organizations have strengths. FamilySearch used to be the undisputed leader in the genealogical industry. Its Family History Library, branch family history centers and extensive microfilming efforts put it on top. But today, when it comes to Internet genealogy, FamilySearch has been sitting on its Laurels (a little LDS inside joke, there). Ancestry.com has become the the undisputed leader in using Internet genealogy to produce profits and shareholder value. (See Making Sense via Motives.) In comparison, the FamilySearch Internet offering is mediocre. Ancestry.com has awakened FamilySearch to the possibilities for using the Internet for its motive of creating eternal families. While FamilySearch's response has been slow, its response and ongoing plan are massive.

Tora! Tora! Tora! Internet genealogy and Indexing has awoken two sleeping giants! The benefit of the "non-competition" competition between these two giants will be gigantic for genealogists.

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