Genealogist.com—the new kid on the block

Genealogist-Screenshot

A web developer that I really respect, Nic Johnson, recently left FamilySearch to join Genealogist.com. I hadn’t heard of the company yet, so I signed up to be notified of launch. A couple of days ago, they notified me of an update to their homepage with a preview of what is to come. Here is my first impression of Genealogist.com.

Please note that any opinions expressed here are my own and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer, FamilySearch.

Genealogist.com has an audacious goal of becoming “THE personal and permanent place for everyone…” I applaud the company for taking on such a noble cause. I have to admit that I’m a bit skeptical of the service’s permanence, but that may be an unfair statement at this point. 1000Memories.com had a similar claim of permanence, but when Ancestry.com acquired them, the website gave a notice that they would be shutting down the service and gave users a window of time to download their data. On the other hand, FamilySearch has a similar permanence goal, but has a long-term (permanent) funding commitment from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as family history is a core part of its doctrine.

The design of the Genealogist.com is beautiful. The colors, typography, and images on the homepage are gorgeous. The design of their Lifepage looks very modern and engaging. It looks like they are incorporating many of the same features as the FamilySearch Family Tree such as Sources, Memories, Conversations, etc. It seems to focus more on the posting of short stories, audio clips, videos, etc. Perhaps this will help draw a younger crowd.

The marketing copy is fantastic. Just reading the content on the homepage makes me excited to see what is coming. The message targets more than today’s genealogy enthusiasts. Clearly, the company has assembled a very talented team of designers, writers, and engineers to launch this product.

It appears that Genealogist.com will be launching with a mobile strategy out of the gate. This seems necessary for any product that wants to keep users engaged with the product at frequent intervals.

I have questions about Genealogist.com that I hope to find answers to—eventually.

1. Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, findmypast, and MyHeritage have historical records that go with their tree services. They use the historical records to drive data into their trees. What is Genealogist.com’s historical records strategy?

2. How will Genealogist.com assure me of the long-term permanence of the service and data?

3. Is Genealogist.com pursuing a single, shared tree for all of humanity? Or will all users control their own individual trees? Or will there be a hybrid of sorts that bridges the two worlds?

4. Will Genealogist.com have an API? If so, will it implement the GEDCOM X RS specification? If it did, it could potentially pick up a lot of clients that have already integrated with FamilySearch’s platform.

I am in favor of more innovation in the family history field, so I hope for the success of new and existing companies. There are a ton of problems to solve and many audiences to reach. The genealogy industry is relatively small in comparison to other industries and it has largely been dominated by a few big players. I believe there is room for our industry to grow. This isn’t a zero-sum game and I’m optimistic that amazing things are around the corner.

2 thoughts on “Genealogist.com—the new kid on the block”

  1. Those are all good questions, but the number one question I have in my mind about Genealogist.com is HOW DO YOU PEOPLE MAKE MONEY? Because if I see yet another website launch with absolutely no mention of how they will fund themselves — ads? a premium model with a Pro version? — then my assumption is that they exist purely for acquisition purposes. They exist to be acquired, which means my data will exist to be acquired — or shut down, as in the case of 1000memories (as you mentioned) and so many, many other sites.

    When I see lines in their beta e-mails like “THE personal and permanent place for everyone—from any time—to be found, remembered, and celebrated—forever” I think “c’mon, pull the other one”.

    It is 2014; this is not our first rodeo.

    And yeah, that site design is *beautiful*. Really stunning UX and the messaging is really great and on point, too. Love the movement towards “fun” and away from “solemn”, which I think tends to bog down a lot of other genealogy-related websites.

    Shame about the lack of business plan, though.

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