Home > Uncategorized > Google archive decision ‘astonishing’ to Ottawa originator

Google archive decision ‘astonishing’ to Ottawa originator

By Vito Pilieci, The Ottawa Citizen May 24, 2011
 
 
Bob Huggins, co-founder of PaperOfRecord.com, is disappointed that Google, which took over the company that digitizes newspaper libraries, will discontinue the service.
 Bob Huggins, co-founder of PaperOfRecord.com, is disappointed that Google, which took over the company that digitizes newspaper libraries, will discontinue the service. Photograph by: JULIE OLIVER, JULIE OLIVER
 

Google’s decision to end support for its newspaper archival services is distressing news for the Ottawa businessman who sold Google the technology to digitize records.

“It’s disappointing, especially when you consider what I thought that this would do,” said Bob Huggins, former chief executive officer and co-founder of PaperOfRecord.com, which Google bought in 2008 for an undisclosed sum.

He called Google’s decision to abandon the initiative “astonishing.”

PaperofRecord.com, formerly called Cold North Wind, was founded over a meal in a Mexican restaurant on Bank Street in 1999. The company spent close to a decade chasing newspaper microfilm records so it could digitize them and make them available to the public over the Internet. The first project was digitizing the archives of the Toronto Star, followed by the files of the Toronto Globe and Mail, Sporting News, Melbourne Chronicle and many other papers in the U.S., Mexico and Europe. At its peak the company employed more than 50.

In buying the company, Google said it would be a key part of its plans to organize the world’s information. It added other newspapers, including the Citizen, to the archive.

Last week, however, Google said it will no longer be providing new features or content for Google News Archives. Existing content will remain online, it said.

Huggins said the Internet search giant had the opportunity to do something worthwhile with his former company’s technology.

“The project to take all of the microfilm in the world and convert it is a very doable project. Probably, in dollars and sense if you put $100 million into this thing, you could do it,” said Huggins. “This is such a no-brainer PR exercise for them. They could take their billions of dollars that is sitting in cash in their bank accounts and say, ‘Hey, let’s put $100 million toward collectively creating this great archive of every day (life), in every language from around the world.’ They could have easily done that.”

The resulting archive would have been a treasure trove to genealogists, students and others who wanted to read real-life accounts of living through the Great Depression or the First World War, or even news articles about Jack the Ripper during his killing spree in London in 1895.

Huggins suggested that Google should partner with public sector institutions, such as the Library of Congress in the United States, to continue the newspaper digitization effort. The information could be stored by the library for safekeeping and made available online for everyone to read.

“They need to give their head a shake here and realize they have some public responsibility,” added Huggins. “For a company that said they wanted to organize all of the world’s data, what happened to that mandate?”

While Google has shifted its focus away from digitizing historical newspapers, the company is trying to work hand-in-hand with newspapers to help them charge for content on their websites. Google recently launched One Pass, a payment platform aimed specifically at online newspaper content.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Source: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business

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