NewspaperARCHIVE.com drops DjVu for PDF
A report by PlanetDjVu, February 11, 2003
As NewspaperARCHIVE.com exceeded 5 million newspaper pages last month, they also replaced DjVu with PDF as the format in which full newspaper pages are presented.
The press release for this change politely states: "Our old browser plug-in, while quite powerful, did not work well for a small portion of our clientele. Adobe is near universally used and accepted. It just works."
We suspect that there is more at work here than just yielding to a small portion of the clientele. NewspaperARCHIVE is competing with 4 or 5 other portal sites to be the dominant search portal for newspapers, and was under increasing criticism for being the only such portal NOT to be using the PDF file format.
NewspaperARCHIVE.com continued to use the DjVu format until the end of last year, no doubt because of the performance benefits of the DjVu format and the DjVu plugin. But they must have become increasingly concerned, as we have been, about the viability of the DjVu web browser plugin in the future. LizardTech could not even manage to keep the plugin version numbers straight last year, and major elements of the plugin, like the integrated ActiveX control, are not even documented. Users of the MAC version of the DjVu plugin were reporting many problems last year, and MAC users just might be the "small portion" of the clientele that were referenced.
By requiring that subscribers install a current version of the Acrobat Reader, NewspaperARCHIVE.com is able to deliver newspaper pages that use the new JBIG2 compression method. This reduces the file size to a level that competes well against the DjVu format, with its "JB2" compression method (the same compression technology with a slightly different name). We have presented a comparison of these compression methods in an earlier news article, which you can view by clicking here.
This abandonment of DjVu is a setback for the public adoption of the DjVu format, as thousands of NewspaperARCHIVE.com who previously would install the DjVu plugin now will no longer do so.
We wonder if LizardTech, the owner of the DjVu file format, is concerned about this. We doubt that they are even aware of it. The LizardTech website still lists NewspaperARCHIVE.com as an example of a DjVu customer. Note: the link is still listed as "Heritage Microfilm".
The DjVuZone.org website also still provides a link to "Heritage Microfilm", but then it is obvious that the DjVuZone.org website has not been updated since 2001, so we don't expect them to be updating links now.
NewspaperARCHIVE.com was by far the largest user of the DjVu file format. There is no longer a website that can claim "millions of pages served in DjVu". Too bad for the DjVu format, which needs any help it can get these days, and not setbacks like this one.
NewspaperARCHIVE.com News Release:
LizardTech DjVu Customers Page:
DjVuZone.org Link to NewspaperARCHIVE.com