Monday, October 11, 2010

Footnote.com Acquisition

Most of you know that Ancestry.com announced they are buying Footnote.com. Here is some information about Footnote.com that may interest you. I close with a provocative thought that I hope doesn’t get me fired.

Footnote? Evernote?

I came across a website called Evernote the other day. Does that name remind you of anything? On the website I found the green graphic below. Remind you of anything?

Evernotegrid FootnoteBalloon

Founder and CEO

Russell Wilding, Footnote.com founder and CEO did an interview with Mormon Entrepreneur magazine earlier this year. Some interesting points:1

  • Footnote.com is a DBA of iArchives.
  • iArchive’s Robert Wille “basically wrote the Internet Indexing System for [FamilySearch],” which they licensed in 2004. That explains why my first installation of FamilySearch Indexing created a folder named “iArchives” on my computer.
  • In 2006 Footnote.com hired “three of the top guys from the industry,” including Roger Bell and Chris Willis from Ancestry.com.
  • Competing for affiliates against Ancestry.com was tough. 

Bringing History to Life

dnews Footnote Inc. historical documents photos
CEO Russ Wilding, seated, Roger Bell, left, Justin
Schroepfer, Scott Jackman, and Chris Willis
Image Credit: © Stuart Johnson, Deseret News 

The Deseret News, a Salt Lake City based newspaper did a rather large article on Footnote.com a couple of years ago. I thought the following worth sharing.2

  • The article contained the management photograph shown to the right. All but Russ came from Ancestry.com. Will Ancestry.com take them back?
  • The Footnote.com Vietnam Veterans Memorial image was stitched together from nearly 1,500 photographs. This project moved me more than any other published historical collection.
  • Footnote.com outsources to China, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and South Africa for “digitization and document classification.” I hope they didn’t use Vietnamese labor for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
  • Company shareholders include Canopy Ventures (Lindon, Utah), Century Capital Partners (Massachusetts), and A.H. Belo (parent of the Dallas Morning News).

Too bad Beau Sharbrough discontinued his Unofficial Footnote Blog. earlier this summer. Beau worked at Ancestry.com, then at Footnote.com, and then elsewhere. I would have liked to read his take on the acquisition. He’s archived his blog as “The Former Unofficial Footnote Blog.”

A Google search of linkedin.com suggests others that have worked at both companies.

Image Viewers

When it comes to viewing images, both Ancestry.com and Footnote.com use technologies that are not part of the World Wide Web standard. This is obnoxious because using the browser Print function prints blank spots where the document image appears onscreen. Unfortunately, the WWW standard doesn’t provide all the capabilities needed by image viewers.

Ancestry.com uses a proprietary browser plug-in that, for a long time, worked only with Internet Explorer. Fortunately, Ancestry.com also has a “Basic Viewer” that uses web standards. It is not as fast or convenient as the proprietary viewer.

Footnote.com (and FamilySearch.org) use the same Flash player used by many web advertisements. Flash breaks many web page features like text selection, scrolling, form control, right-clicking, support for the disabled, page translation, mobile phones, and more. It is also thought to have major weaknesses exploited by viruses. Footnote.com does not provide an alternative viewer as Ancestry.com does.

 

Was Footnote a Number Four Company?

Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric insisted that only businesses that were number one or two in their markets could survive. He fixed or sold companies that weren’t. “When you’re number one, you control your destiny. The number fours keep merging.”3

A popular book on marketing, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, states that “in the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race.”4

With that in mind, one wonders if the presence of FamilySearch in the market precludes the viability of a sizable, commercial competitor to Ancestry.com.

 


Sources

     1. Mark Mugleston, “Footnote.com Founder & CEO: Russell Wilding,” Mormon Entrepreneur, “Issue 3 – Family History” (www.mormonentrepreneur.net : January 2010).

     2. Brice Wallace, “Bringing History to Life: Lindon Company’s Site Takes Users to Original Sources,” Deseret News, online edition (www.deseretnews.com : published 15 June 2008).

     3. Robert Slater, Jack Welch on Leadership (New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2004). See especially page 31.

     4. Al Ries and Jack Trout, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (1993), chapter 8, “The Law of Duality.”

4 comments:

  1. Since FHCs no longer have access to Ancestry.com [library version], will their acquistion of Footnote mean that FHCs can not have free access it also?

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  2. Interesting observations, but I don't agree with Welch or the book you cite. It depends on the industry. Condiser the rental car industry. For years it appeared to be just Hertz and Avis, but now there are several others still thriving (although they are not 1 or 2). The fast food industry is the same. McDonalds and Burger King may be the top two, but that has not slowed the growth of others (Wendy's, Artic Circle, In N Out, Carl's Jr., etc.).

    I worked for Ancestry in the mid-1990s when number one in that industry was Broderbund and their Family Tree Maker brand. The question the founders posed to me was: How do we compete against the 900 pound gorilla. My response: Make a better product. Ancestry did, and they changed the game rules by putting data on the web, not on CD-ROM.

    I could go on, but Ancestry still has commercial competition: Genealogy Bank, World Vital Records and the recent emergence of Archives.com.

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  3. I believe that Ancestry.com has already let Roger Bell go.

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  4. They let Roger Bell go? Wow... not a smart move on their part!

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