While it is true that the need for independent title abstractors might actually be eliminated if the idealized descriptions of a technology provider's capabilities proved realistic, proclamations of the imminent demise of their business may be premature. In fact, the independent abstractor has a real opportunity that seems to have been largely overlooked, but in order to understand and take advantage of this opportunity, we have to first examine the promised market of full digitization and automation.
In this oft-prophesied and idealized market, all archived public documents will be available both remotely and digitally, and the client who needs these documents would be able to simply and efficiently obtain them, removing the need for someone to go to the courthouse, manually obtain documents, scan them, and then deliver them back to the client.
All search-related activities could be performed remotely, and there would be no need for any local expertise. This is the essence of what is promised on the back of technology.
However, if digital availability was ubiquitous, if the digitized documents were perfect, and if all the related data was flawless, such technology might indeed eliminate the need for a skilled abstractor. However, achieving such perfection in the document chain would also virtually eliminate the need for the title insurance industry as a whole.
Of course, the reality is (and will continue to be) far from this ideal, and title insurance companies will continue to thrive on the potential existence of problems that might be found in any given document chain. As long as this is true, local expertise and timely results can work together to offer a value proposition that will ultimately trump a mindless search service offered at rock bottom prices.