Review: Genline vs. Arkiv Digital

Arkiv Digital Example

Arkiv Dig­i­tal Example

As the year ends, I am both clos­ing out an account at Gen­line (now a sub­sidiary of Ances­try), and try­ing out Arkiv Dig­i­tal.

I have found Gen­line to be frus­trat­ing. Some of this, no doubt has to do with the fact that the fam­ily is not the eas­i­est to find, with the parish chang­ing names, as I men­tioned yes­ter­day. Some of it, though, is Genline’s inter­face and their images. In Gen­line, you select a län (County), one or more parishes, and one or more church record types. The inter­face is com­pletely in Eng­lish on the Mac, so at least you don’t strug­gle with rudi­men­tary vocabulary.

Once you run your search, you receive a list of rel­e­vant pages. Each is marked with a Page Type (Nor­mal Page, Reg­is­ter Start, Cover of Book, and so on). There are columns for place names and years, but these area all too often blank. (Imag­ine how quickly this would be indexed by year if they had an open com­mu­nity sourc­ing model like that at Foot­note! Gen­line is start­ing to exper­i­ment with allow­ing users to anno­tate the images. I hope they con­tinue.) On both sites, many if not most of the pages are dis­tin­guished only by their num­ber. Arkiv Dig­i­tal often pro­vides a typed sheet at the begin­ning of a book telling you which page to go to for a par­tic­u­lar year. Even when there isn’t such a rough time index, the pages load about 50% slower on Gen­line. (This is not sci­en­tific, but my per­cep­tion is that I was get­ting down­loads from Arkiv Dig­i­tal in fewer than 3 sec­onds and in about 5 sec­onds from Genline.)

Genline Example

Gen­line Example

When you decide to dive in, you have grayscale images that were taken from the LDS micro­films. They are ser­vice­able, but do not always have the best con­trast. (Gen­line does pro­vide some tools for adjust­ing bright­ness and con­trast.) Arkiv Dig­i­tal pro­vides clean, new high-contrast color images. I don’t know about you, but if I am going to be read­ing images line by line in 150-year-old Swedish script, I much pre­fer the Arkiv Dig­i­tal prod­uct to that from Genline.

Gen­line offers a great fea­ture allow­ing to see where you are in the con­text of the image when you are zoomed in on the image, and might need some per­spec­tive, which I find handy. You can also use it to change how much of the image you want to see by inter­act­ing with this thumb­nail. How­ever, I find it per­plex­ing that the search win­dow dis­ap­pears when I want to look at the result. I much pre­fer Arkiv DIgital’s approach, which uses tabs, like a mod­ern web browser.

Then, there is the pric­ing. Archiv Dig­i­tal is 995 SEK (Swedish kro­nor) until Jan­u­ary 9th, or about $146. Gen­line is 1295 SEK, or about $190. Both seem over priced if you com­pare their prices for access to the 24 mil­lion Swedish church records to those for sites like Ances­try ($300 a year for the run of all 6 bil­lion his­tor­i­cal records), or Foot­note ($80 for a year, 72 mil­lion images).

One won­ders what Ances­try intends to do with sites like Gen­line, which (as does Arkiv Dig­i­tal) requires an instal­la­tion of the user, and still remain intensely coun­try spe­cific. My hope is that Ances­try is try­ing to build its global brand by focus­ing on com­pet­ing in local mar­kets, where a size­able chunk of the address­able mar­ket is inter­act­ing with other ven­dors than Ances­try. If these prod­ucts can be folded into the Ances­try World Access prod­uct, or as some more rea­son­ably priced add on, I think they have some real oppor­tu­ni­ties. And putting the inno­va­tion engine that is Foot­note into the mix — if Foot­note is allowed to teach Ances­try and all of its brands a trick or two — really makes the new year inter­est­ing in the com­mer­cial ances­tral records market.

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