18 August 2011

Footnote.com becomes Fold3.com

What a surprise earlier today!

When I went to footnote.com, I saw that it has been given a face-lift and a new name. The new name, fold3, is meant to represent a greater emphasis and honor for those who served in the military.

Many genealogy blogs have recently highlighted the War of 1812 pension project between FGS and footnote. It truly is exciting to see them taking on such large digitization projects!

I was shocked to see the changes in design for fold3, but I feel like the new design does honor the military emphasis.

Though I am pleased with the military emphasis in general, I feel it would be better as a temporary revamp of the site, or as a new dedicated section (a military tab).

In my view, there are two priceless things about footnote.com--the unique image viewer and the amount of unique record groups. Any major player can upload new record groups, so the interface is really what set footnote apart the most.

All image viewing sites which show readable images should implement the footnote viewer. The in-viewer navigation, search, and annotation are some of my favorite features.

Some of my favorite record groups are the city directories. I love being able to search for any word on the page. Searching by address has helped me find connections to relatives I previously missed. Some people moved several times between census years.

Comments on the footnote / fold3 blog indicate more disappointment than excitement.

Many individuals have expressed online that footnote's making a change like this, without informing their subscribers beforehand, is bad business practice. At the same time, I think it is important to step back and try to distance yourself from the initial rush of emotional dissatisfaction. Anyone who really feels hurt can cancel, but such a decision may be shortsighted. The former footnote.com's record collections remain intact. It is true that users will no longer be able to look toward footnote to add more amazing records about non-military topics, but this is only a first step in major changes to come. Rather than being pessimistic and assuming all changes will be bad changes, think optimistically of where this could go. Ancestry.com may eventually adopt the browsing and image viewer interface of fold3. There is nothing to indicate this will occur, but if Ancestry did this, we would still be able to view new record collections in all their "footnote" glory--simply under a new name.

To me it is worth the price to support their military digitization, if nothing else.

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