Before I get too much involved in this particular post, I need to make one of my standard disclaimers. The opinions in this particular post are entirely my own and may not reflect reality in any sense of the word. But my opinions are based on actual facts and my own observations over the past few weeks and months.
Late last year when the rumors of an agreement between FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and findmypast.com began to circulate, speculation among those in the genealogical community who were interested and realized the advantages, centered around the issues of if and when such an agreement were implemented why would they want to do this? The "they" refers of course, to the other three genealogical database programs other than FamilySearch.org.
Now months later, the agreement has been clarified somewhat and it is evidently a fact that at some point in the future registered members of FamilySearch.org with an LDS account will get free access to the other three online large databases. Apparently, the details of how this will be accomplished have yet to be released or even perhaps worked out. But essentially, a member with an LDS account will be able to sign on for full use of the other three databases using an LDS account login and password.
The real unanswered question is why would the other three large companies do this?
The reason given by FamilySearch for this access is that the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have paid for the accumulation of records in the FamilySearch.org Historical Record Collections and therefore a quid pro quo would require some sort of advantage to the members of the Church. Still, with over 15 million members why would any one of these three large entities want to give all those people "free" access to what are otherwise subscription-based programs?
The key to answering this question, in my opinion, it's quite simple. According to recent statements only about 2.7% of the entire Church population are actively submitting names for Temple work. If this is the case, from my own experience I would guess that only a very small percentage of that number are actively involved in online research. So the actual exposure to additional new members of their online databases by the three large companies is vanishingly small. Reality is that only a microscopically small percentage of the members of the Church are even aware of the existence of this agreement presently and that is unlikely to change in the future.
One digression. I wonder if the percentage of LDS Church members involved with genealogy is greater than that of the general population? Interesting question.
If you want to test whether or not my opinion is valid and you are a member of the Church and are reading this blog post, the next time you are in a Church meeting and have the opportunity simply ask the group how many of the people in the meeting have ever used or know about the website called findmypast.com? I ask this question regularly among groups of genealogical interest of people in the United States and find very few are acquainted with the site. Of course, among genealogist you would get a vastly different response, especially in the United States, in asking about Ancestry.com. You might also get a much higher percentage of awareness of findmypast.com in the UK. But among the general population of the members of the Church awareness of either of these programs is low and use of these programs is very, very low. I am certain that you would get the same reaction if you ask the average congregation in the Church about MyHeritage.com also.
Will this lack of awareness be overcome by the "free" access to these three online genealogy programs? I doubt that making the programs free will have much impact at all. The programs have already been free in over 4600 FamilySearch Centers around the world. The issue is interest in genealogy, not paid access to a few programs.
Summarizing, the reason why these three large online databases would give free access to the entire membership of the Church is because the impact on their business will be minimal compared to the advantages of adding FamilySearch.org records to their offerings online.
Now, if you are presently a user of any one of the three programs you will greatly benefit from the agreement by the increased access to FamilySearch.org's vast collections.
Will the situation concerning the average member's involvement in genealogy change dramatically in the short term? That is the big question. Answering that question and trying to make that involvement increase are also some of the basic reasons why I am writing these blogs.