Modern Software Experience

2010-02-08

Verwandt

private, secure and free

Near the lower right corner of the Verwandt.de home page is the text verwandt.de ist privat, sicher und kostenlos!. The DynasTree home page has the text dynastree.com is private, secure and free. The Dutch home page has the text verwant.nl is privaat, veilig en gratis!. Each home Verwandt page contains this statement in the appropriate language.

blog

The English Verwandt was originally called It’s Our Tree and later renamed to DynasTree. That is why the first blog post on the DynasTree blog is itsourtree launch!. The first sentence of that blog post is Welcome to itsourtree.com, your brand new free base for the exploration and discovery of your family tree! and the first sentence of the third paragraph is As we won’t charge any fees, you can sign up directly and feel free to explore the site, create your family tree and invite your relatives to help you work on the tree..

press info

The DynasTree press page offers two Adobe PDF files, a Fact Sheet and a FAQ. One paragraph in the Fact Sheet reads:

The majority of the features on dynastree.com is completely free of charge for the users and will always remain free as well. Additionally, dynastree.com offers attractive premium subscriptions with minimum durations of only one month for advanced features such as extensive statistics, automatic search for family members, or an own homepage for the family.

The DynasTree FAQ contains the following paragraph:

How much does dynastree charge?

The basic version is free and will remain free, and the features offered with it will also stay free. A premium subscription is available for only about $6.66 per month (duration of 12 months), and the minimum duration is only one month. Premium users benefit from additional features, such as extended statistics, a premium family homepage, and much more.

The basic version is free and will remain free, and the features offered with it will also stay free.

premium services

Of course, this begs the question just what the free and premium services are. The DynasTree online help lists the following premium services:

The 2009 August 13 DynasTree blog entry Bloggers, Get Free 1-Month Premium Subscriptions For Your Readers! includes a comparison table:

feature standardpremium
free family treeYY
invite unlimited relativesYY
merge family treesYY
upload photos and documentsYY
stay in contact with family and friendsYY
automatic search for relativesNY
family tree statisticsNY
premium family pageNY
free PDF exportNY
advanced searchNY

free tree

All these official statements make one thing very clear: building a tree at Dynastree is free, now matter how large it gets, no matter how many relatives you invite, no matter how often you merge your tree with another one, no matter how many photos and documents you upload. Building a tree is free and will remain free forever. You only pay for premium services, and only if you want those premium services.

How different is MyHeritage’s model; as soon as your tree exceeds a puny 250 profiles, you have to pay for it. What’s worse, that limit used to be 1000 profiles, was lowered to 500 profiles and then was lowered again to 250 profiles; you cannot rely on what’s free on MyHeritage to remain free. There is no guarantee that MyHeritage won’t decide to lower its free limit again.

How do such disparate business models and practices combine? The MyHeritage business model would be serious step backwards for the Verwandt users, all Verwandt users. The MyHeritage model is not only a step back for those with more than 250 profiles in their tree, or those approaching that, the uncertainty is serious step back for everyone.

dumb and dumber

The statistics for MyHeritage indicate that their lowering of the free limit was not well received; many users did not stay around and pay up, but left for elsewhere. A serious drop in MyHeritage’s average tree size was the observable result and the former users are far from ambassadors for MyHeritage.
I believe that lowering the limit was dumb, and that lowering it again was even dumber. MyHeritage obviously created a large group of dissatisfied former users - twice. The management also stunted MyHeritage’s growth and damaged the already low quality of its own database (see Limited Genealogy).

MyHeritage has often advertised the free limit of 1000 profiles. Lowering that limit was as bad as breaking an explicit promise. This management blunder seriously damaged the company’s public trust and reputation.
If MyHeritage’s management has learned from its mistakes, it will not break any implicit or explicit promise ever again.

DynasTree promised its users free tree building forever. That promise is an unalienable part of the company and the responsibility of keeping that promise falls on the proud new owner. That new owner was well aware of this promise when it acquired the company, but its current business model conflicts with that promise.
Is MyHeritage going to keep the DynasTree Free Tree Promise? Let’s see what both companies have said or implied about this issue.

promise

The MyHeritage press release has Gilad Japhet saying that they will deliver the best that our combined network and technologies can offer and Daniel Grözinger, co-founder of Verwandt states We’re really excited to be able to combine the best of OSN and MyHeritage.com’s services to bring even more value to our members. Even now that the deal is completed, he promises the users more value, not less.

The MyHeritage blog entry about the acquisition says We’ll ensure their trees are safe so they are able take their research further privately and securely..

It also states that we’re in the process of helping them [the eleven million Verwandt users] to continue building their family trees on MyHeritage.com.. It does not say only users with tiny trees will be allowed to continue building, it clearly says that all eleven million DynasTree users will be able to take their research further and will be allowed to continue building their tree, it does not restrict that promise in any way.

The DynasTree blog entry stresses the even bigger database the photo management system as the two main advantages of the move to MyHeritage. It does not mention any disadvantages.
The blog entry even explicitly states that Your data will be treated confidentially and is safe and free available under MyHeritage.com..

promise status

Nothing in the press release or the respective blog posts even remotely hints that the free tree promise is a problem for MyHeritage or that the status of the free tree promise has changed. All the official communication highlights the advantages of the new situation for users, and no drawbacks are mentioned at all.

DynasTree not only promised its users free tree building forever, their blog post made after the acquisition practically repeats the promise and the MyHeritage blog post confirms it by stating that all Verwandt user will be allowed to continue building their tree on MyHeritage, without restricting that to tiny trees or paying customers.

conclusion

MyHeritage bought DynasTree as is, and the DynasTree Free Tree Promise is the MyHeritage’s Free Tree Promise now, and all the official communication about the acquisition states or implies that MyHeritage will keep its promise.

links