Modern Software Experience



FamilyLink is one of those social genealogy websites. It was started by WorldVitalRecords, which claims to have changed its name to FamilyLink, but is confusingly still using both the old and new names, not just for the respective web sites, but for the company as well.


Today, FamilyLink née WorldVitalRecords introduced a new website for family trees, called WebTree. It is an utterly uninspired name, and a web address that has had several owners already.

charter member

WebTree is not a social genealogy site, but a site where you can host your family tree for free. The marketroid are hoping two get two mentions by introducing it in two steps. They will introduce it in a few weeks, but you can become a charter member today. That sounds nice, but there are no known benefits to being a charter member.

unparalleled revolutionary next-generation experience

Right now, there is not much more on the WebTree home page than a bit of text, touting themselves as the most revolutionary family tree publishing site on the Internet, claiming unparalleled family tree browsing experience of their next-generation family tree community.


That text starts out by stating that it is 100% free, that the website is beautiful and feature-filled, and that you can print software-quality charts, as if that phrase means anything else than the chart quality you get from software. Surely all charts produced by software are software-quality. The actual quality of the software-quality chart will depend a lot on the quality of the software in question.

The text also promises an amazing number of revolutionary features, which is probably no more than yet another empty marketroid phrase.

The most interesting statement that really means something right now is that you own your own data. I am pretty sure that they mean you own your database, as the text goes on to stress that you can delete it any time, and that they will not sell it to others. It is hard to not recognise this text as addressing much-complained about business practices, especially when it is followed by a promise not to spam.

WebTree claims that they protect our users’ identities fiercely and would never sell your information to a third party., but do so from a page that contains code to let a third party, namely Quantcast, monitor its visitors, without telling you so.

Register & Upload

I decided to give the new site a quick try-out. I hit the Register & Upload button, and got an white browser window with the text User not found in the upper left corner... not a hallmark of quality site engineering.

I soon figure out the problem with WebTree. The harsh truth is that WebTree is build using previous-generation technology. It does not respect web standards and still relies on JavaScript. It really is not a web site, but a JavaScript site.

I do not recommend turning scripting on, so I cannot recommend WebTree, but I temporarily allowed scripting to continue the quick try-out. The registration box requires a name, an email, a username and a password. As a charter member, I had no problem picking a user name.

As soon as you’ve provided that information, the site prompts you to Upload your family tree. There are two edit boxes in that dialog box; one for the filename of your GEDCOM files, and one for the title of your family tree. I pick VanderTer.ged, a small test file, call the tree VanderTer Test and choose Upload File.

Thank you

The next dialog box says Thank you for contributing! When our site launches [sic], we’ll send you an email with more details on accessing your file. Feel free to upload another file at this time..

I am not offered any other option. I cannot create or modify my profile, or even change the colours used for the tree. There is no confirmation email in my inbox either. They’ve taken my data, and That’s it. So much for the promise of allowing me to delete it any time I want. I apparently have to wait a few weeks for the ability to do so...

The first impression WebTree just made does not match the hype on its home page.


2008-06-19 mail

The promised mail arrives on 2008 Jun 19. The mail tells me that all but a few large trees are reading for viewing. It also urges me to try the amazing charts produced by the Internet’s first live charting engine that creates heirloom-quality charts. Blah blah blah. Their email has obviously been written by a marketroid suffering from the delusion that making outrageous claims will make me love their poor product. If the content / BS ratio of their emails does not improve soon, I may start clicking the Report Spam button. Funnily, along the bottom of the email is a footer, the first line of which ends with email marketing by. Just that, no name, but the unsubscribe link leads to Perhaps I should add them to my spam list. Tip to WebTree: lose the marketroids, and start blogging instead. Its cheaper for you, and less annoying for us.


The site isn’t a website but a Flash site. It proudly proclaims 6,154,272 ANCESTORS have been contributed to our community in the last 16 days, Yes, they use commas instead of the internationally more common stops, which suggests they are aiming to be a local service. The home page shows a list of the recently added family trees.
One thing I usually do with sites like this is search for a few Dutch names. The number of hits I get on those gives me some indication how big their database really is. This is still not possible with WebTree, because their search engine does not work yet...

On the positive side, the delete button they promised is there, and it pops ups a small dialog asking whether you are sure, just in case you clicked it accidentally. There is an edit button, but it does not let you edit your tree, it only lets you change your description.

All I can do right now is browse trees. The ancestors view looks okay. It starts by displaying for generations, but there is generations that you can goes up to and including 11 generations. Be warned that display of eleven generations (2046 ancestors) takes about ten second, even if you do not have any ancestors in those generations. Moreover, it seems to display boxes for only eight generations (254 ancestors).
At this point in time, there are only three box styles to choose form, with or without a fixed-size drop shadow. When you click an option, WebTree is not fast, so it may become unresponsive for a few seconds. They have a nice looking colour palette, but the continual user interface delays make it practically unusable.

2008-07-21 beta announcement

The WorldVitalRecords news blog announces the introduction of the WebTree Beta. The site now claims 8,866,719 ancestors have been contributed to our community in the last 27 days!. Apart from the fact that the site is still sporting a local number format, I wonder about that claim; is it really 8.866.719 ancestors (never mind duplicates) or is it 8.866.719 records? People without children aren’t ancestors.

The search function works now. A banner long the top still warns that the site works well in Firefox and Safari, but not in Internet Explorer.

2008-08-13 10 million records

The WorldVitalRecords blog has a post in celebration of passing 10 million records on WebTree. WebTree is still presenting records as ancestors.

2010-05-03 WebTree no more

FamilyLink has pulled the plug on their family tree revolution.

2011-04-23 WebTree link

The broken WebTree link has been removed.