In making these observations, please understand that I am not disclosing any confidential information received from any of the participants in the agreements. This post is pure speculation on my part. On the other hand, I have been following this situation rather closely and the one key statement in the press release is the following:
Ancestry.com announced today an extension of their collaborative efforts with FamilySearch International that will make more than 1 billion additional records from 67 countries available on Ancestry.com. These already digitized records, provided by FamilySearch, are in addition to the agreement the two largest providers of family history resources announced a few months ago that will help digitize, index and publish an expected 1 billion global historical records never before published online from the FamilySearch vault over the next five years.The key statements are "never before published online" and "1 billion additional records." Here's what I think.
FamilySearch and its predecessor the Genealogical Society of Utah, began microfilming records around the world since back in 1938. The number of records accumulated so far is huge, consisting of 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. In addition, FamilySearch has been digitizing records for the past 8 to 10 years in ever-increasing numbers.The digitized records consist of records previously microfilmed as well as newly digitized records that continue to be acquired. You can read about this on the FamilySearch.org Archives webpage. Now, I have been aware for some time that the process of converting the existing microfilmed records into digital copies and putting them online has two components. Those two components are records to which FamilySearch has an absolute right and those records for which it has to negotiate the rights to put the records online. The records to which it has rights are being shared on FamilySearch.org's Historical Record Collections. It is my guess, that there are a considerable number of records, probably 1 billion or so, for which FamilySearch.org has been unable to adequately negotiate rights for publication online.
Now we get to the heart of the matter. FamilySearch has a huge pile of unpublished records for which it cannot negotiate rights for publication and as stated in the above press release, Ancestry.com has $100 million to spend on records. Since, FamilySearch has been unable to negotiate rights my guess is that they approached Ancestry.com for assistance. Ancestry.com likely could immediately see the advantage of acquiring the rights to already digitized records and agreed to negotiate with the record providers for rights of access to the records. Money talks and so Ancestry.com probably now has the rights to put the previously unavailable records online.
Now, as part of this deal it is my guess that FamilySearch wished to preserve access to these records for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So, again my guess is that part of the negotiations involved the issue of access to the records for members of the Church. These are records that would never have made it online any other way.
Now, I need to move to a completely different issue. For some considerable time, anyone who visits a FamilySearch Center (formerly Family History Centers) has had free access to Ancestry.com's Library Edition. In the past, because of some disagreement, Ancestry.com pulled the free copies out of the FamilySearch Centers. However, for some time now anyone can gain free access to Ancestry.com in the FamilySearch Centers. Also, there has been a rumor about all of the members of the Church gaining access to Ancestry.com for free. Why would Ancestry.com do this?
My guess about this situation is that Ancestry.com does not view giving free access to members of the Church as a big deal. From my own observations I would further guess that even if the members of the Church had free access, only a very, very small percentage of the actual membership would even be aware of the access and/or use it.
For me, the missing piece was how this potential deal would benefit both parties. Please understand that this is my guess but looking at it from the standpoint that FamilySearch has records it cannot publish and Ancestry.com has the resources and ability to publish the records I would think that this is a beneficial deal for all parties concerned. I expect that we will really never know the details of the agreement. But I think my analysis (guess) probably fits.