Google announced last week that it would be deleting the content of the Google Videos archive. After a public outcry, it said it would work on saving all the video content and making it available elsewhere. In this instance, the public managed to change Google’s mind and stopped the mass deletion of a unique digital archive but the situation raises concerns about data under Google’s control, including the unique archive of Google Books.
The reason cited for Google Videos’ closure is that the company would like to focus on its raison d’être, search, “[the] ability to let people search videos from across the web, regardless of where those videos are hosted”. Shifting its priorities is its prerogative as a company: the issue is that on the basis of refocusing its business priorities, its first impulse was to delete the gigabytes of content given to it by users.
This situation has disturbing implications for Google Videos’ sister project, Google Books, and the approximately 15 million scanned documents in the archive. In partnership with some of the greatest research libraries in the world – the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Harvard University Library, the New York Public Library – Google Books has built up a huge digital library containing thousands of unique documents.
The article continues with Mr. Barron’s reasoning.
Three quick comments:
1. The headline, as is often the case, a bit over the top.
2. Mr. Barron does not mention (does he know?) that others (HathiTrust and The Internet Archive) have books that Google has digitized in their collections plus HT and IA are also doing their own digitization.
3. The most important point? A reminder that for a company, even Google, can change or modify plans and leadership.