The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has now issued a press release that “welcomes Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s statement supporting the aim of the Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP)”.

If this confuses you, then you are probably not alone.

It was under a week ago, that WAN released a terse statement calling on Google “to respect the rights of content creators and embrace ACAP”. It criticised Google for acting in “its own commercial self-interest” by its apparent reluctance to accept the new search engine protocol known as ACAP. Gavin O’Reilly, President of WAN and Chairman of ACAP, did not mince his words, warning the search engine behemoth not to “glibly throw mistruths about”.

The earlier statement was in (over?)reaction to comments made by Google European executive Rob Jonas. According to WAN, Jonas was quoted as saying that Google was happy with the status quo, which “provides everything most publishers need”. The implication of this, says WAN, is that Google was saying it was not keen on embracing the new protocol.

Speaking to a reporter in Sydney earlier this week, Schmidt said that the only barriers to Google’s implementation of ACAP were technical, and he denied that Google was reluctant to embrace the system because of commercial self-interest. “It is not that we don’t want them (publishers) to be able to control their information,” he was quoted as saying.

Schmidt’s statement now appears to clarify Google’s position regarding the publishing initiative.

ACAP is a new publishing standard that allows website terms and conditions to be placed in machine-readable format so that publishers can have a say in how news aggregators and search engine companies use their content.

According to the newspaper umbrella body, Schmidt said that ACAP, as currently specified, is incompatible with Google’s proprietary search engine technology but that “we have some people working with them to see if the proposal can be modified to work in the way our search engines work.”

O’Reilly responded: “We are pleased that Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said that they would be willing to implement ACAP if it were not for some technical incompatibility issues. As Mr. Schmidt knows, we have worked very closely with Google at a technical level throughout the past year in the ACAP project phase.

“Naturally, we are disappointed that we have yet to overcome their remaining technical barriers to ‘live’ implementation, but we have always stressed that we will do whatever is necessary to make ACAP work technically and seamlessly for all search engines. Our aspirations for ACAP have always been led by business needs and not by any preconceived technical solution,” he said.

So where does that leave us? Either Jonas’ comments on ACAP have been misunderstood or the initial response from WAN was an overreaction, or perhaps its a case of Google’s senior execs not singing from the same hymn sheet?

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