Modern Software Experience

2009-07-21

FamilyLink

My Family…isn’t a genealogical application.

My Family

Here is a tidbit of information That’s hard to find anywhere else: My Family was originally developed by Paul Aschmann of the Aschmann Media Group (AMG).

The My Family app is available on multiple OpenSocial-supporting platforms; Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5, and Friendster. On these different social networks, the same application is known by different names. For example, on MySpace it is called Stick Family, a name that is more evocative and appropriate than the bland and uninspired My Family that FamilyLink is still using.

acquired

FamilyLink acquired the My Family app on 2008 Jun 26. That announcement mentions We’re Related as FamilyLink’s leading application. In fact, We’re Related is so leading in that press release, that it introduces FamilyLink as the company behind We’re Related.

If you ever tried We’re Related you may find that odd. We’re Related is so slow, limited and practically unusable that any professional developer would be ashamed to be associated with it.

Yet the announcement makes it very clear that We’re Related is more important that My Family. It calls We’re Related the No. 1 family application on Facebook, and points out that My Family is the 26th most popular Facebook application.

why

According to the press release, Jason McGowan, director of social networking said that: Acquiring My Family gives us a significant presence on other social networks, such as Bebo, MySpace, hi5, and Friendster and extends our leadership position in family social networking..

The announcement gives one clear reason for the acquisition; it will boost FamilyLink’s potential for ad revenue.
That seems a bit of misdirection to me. The press release does not mention any financial numbers, but you have to wonder how much revenue the application brings in, and how long it is going to take for that revenue stream to break even with the total cost of the acquisition.

across social networks

Much more interesting than the revenue stream is that the app is available on all those different networks. Do not think it was coded specifically for each one. It is coded for OpenSocial, an application standard supported by many social networks.

What FamilyLink bought was not just a presence on other social networks, but working cross-platform code. The application itself is minimal. It does almost nothing.

My Family

The press release describes My Family thus: The My Family app lets social networking users creatively represent their family members and pets on their web pages with cute stick figure icons.. The statement that The My Family applications appeal to younger family members, and help us reach a new audience. seems to compare My Family with We’re Related. The user quote I REALLY like this application. It can also grow with you as you families grow seems to suggest it scales well. I seriously doubt that, but that does not matter, as My Family does not need to scale well.

Stick Family

The immediately obvious difference between We’re Related and My Family is that We’re Related uses FaceBook avatars while My Family uses stick figures.

A similarity is that both We’re Related and My Family supports pets. All We’re Related users received an email on 2009 Jun 30 that said At We’re Related, we know pets represent an important place in families. Now, we have made it easy for you to add your pet to your family tree.. As your pets do not have FaceBook profiles (they don't, do they?), you can upload a photo for We’re Related to use.

Animals

If you think that is silly, check out My Family; it does not just have stick figures for a cat or a dog, but also for a puppy. There are stick figures for dead cats and dead dogs, called Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven, which is the same stick figure but with angel wings. There are stick figures fish and dead fish, a hamster and a dead hamster, a rabbit and a dead rabbit. Stick figures for a mouse and turtle are not out of the ordinary, but it gets weird with stick figures for a hobby horse, a unicorn. Other selections include lizard, snake, snail, spider, chicken, cow, crab, goat, ferret, frog, duck, gerbil, hedgehog, sheep and pig. It is a veritable animal farm.

My Family Animals stick figures

People

That the selection of stick figures for people includes children in a wheelchair, babies, baseball boy, army dad, cheerleaders is funny. Without enough drawings to choose from, you could perhaps make a selection that resembles your family, but the inclusion of such things as a house, teddy bear and flower pot on the people tab is unexpected.

My Family people stick figures

Limited Edition

The selection of items on the Limited Edition tab is all about Halloween and Christmas, with stick figures for such things as a Halloween Pumpkin, a Christmas Tree, a Reindeer and Sleigh, Father Christmas, an Elf and a Turkey.

My Family Limited Edition stick figures

whimsical

All this is rather whimsical. In fact, all this is all there is to the application. You can select stick figures, add them to your gallery of stick figures and put a name to each. That’s it. That is the application.

You cannot associate a stick figure with a FaceBook profile. You cannot define relationships between the stick figures. You can only select and name them. It is marketed as a way to represent your family, but without either the FaceBook profiles or family relationships, it certainly isn’t a genealogical application. The Bebo category for this app, Photo > Slideshows/Collage is accurate.

The simple nature of the app hints at a partial answer at the question how much sense it makes to buy this. After all, if you wanted to make this yourself, the hardest part would be to find a artist to create a bunch of appealing drawings. This application probably wasn’t expensive, but it is popular, and that popularity translates into advertising revenue.

cross-platform

Ever since FamilyLink bought My Family, I expected them to infuse We’re Related with cross-platform code, to gain independence from FaceBook and a wider presence for their main application.

That they still haven’t done so more than a year after acquiring it is a bit surprising, but also easily explained by ever changing plans. They have taken the first step by putting We’re Related on the web at familylink.com, but you still need to log into FaceBook using FaceBook Connect.

The creation of GenealogyWise and FamilyLink’s premature claims that GenealogyWise supports family trees (see FamilyLink abandons FamilyLink) hints at unfulfilled plans. GenealogyWise is a ning network, ning support OpenSocial, and several FamilyLink developers joined the Ning Developer Network.

updates

2010-09-30 for sale

FamilyLink MyFamily has been for sale and seems to be gone. Family MyFamily: going, going, gone? has the details.

2011-04-23 FaceBook

FaceBook broke the FaceBook Connect link. It has been replaced with a generic link to FaceBook Developers.

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