Modern Software Experience

2010-04-06

FamilyLink

We’re Related

FamilyLink, the company originally known as WorldVitalRecords, has introduced a payment model for FamilyLink.com, the web application with FaceBook Connect originally known as the We’re Related FaceBook app. The FamilyLink.com web app can be found on the eponymous www.familylink.com domain, which was as originally used for another web app, which was originally called FamilyLink.com, but later renamed to FamilyHistoryLink and then abandoned by FamilyLink, the company originally known as WorldVitalRecords.

free

The We’re Related FaceBook app used to be free. It had to be free, as it was and - despite its shiny new recycled name - still is such a poor FaceBook app, that FamilyLink really ought to be paying everyone who ever suffered its severely limited capabilities and  its poorly conceived advertisement-laden user interface.

popular?

The We’re Related app was never popular because it was such a great app. It only seemed popular because genealogy apps are viral by nature and We’re Related enjoyed the early mover advantage on a fast growing FaceBook site.
The statistics published by FamilyLink itself stop short of admitting that many users who installed it on the instigation of family or friends soon abandoned the app. They don’t have to admit that, as the extremely low average tree size tells it all. As pointed out in How Geni beats We’re Related already, the average size of a We’re Related tree is just five or six profiles. That is the average, so many trees are a lot a smaller than that; just what you would expect to get if many users try the app once or twice and then abandon it.

On 2009 Jul 1, FamilyLink, the company originally known as WorldVitalRecords, claimed that FamilyLink, the FaceBook-connected web app originally known as the We’re Related FaceBook app, surpassed 50 million users. You need to be severely lacking in sceptical skills to not read that as 50 million FaceBook users merely trying the app at least once, and be fooled into believing that this poorly conceived app actually has 50 million active users. Anyone who tried it understands that many users will soon abandon it, especially now that there is some competition from companies that focus more on genealogy and less on advertising pennies per page hit.

Third parties that track FaceBook apps, such as AllFaceBook and FaceBakers, put the number of currently active users for FamilyLink.com née We’re Related at less than 12 million and trending downwards.

freemium

FamilyLink née WorldVitalRecords has more than once described FamilyLink.com née We’re Related as a free application, but with the introduction of FamilyLink Plus, it has become a freemium application.
The existing functionality remains free, but its new features require a FamilyLink Plus subscription.

The move to the freemium business model isn’t remarkable. Many companies are using it, and in even FamilyLink’s direct competition is using it already. Geni.com and MyHeritage are partly free, and when Ancestry.com introduced Mundia, it was immediately made clear that it would switch to the freemium model.

Not only are there differences between those services, there are differences between what’s free and what’s not, as well as their terms and conditions. It might be interesting to compare FamilyLink Plus with these competitors, if there wasn’t a much bigger issue. The most remarkable thing about the FamilyLink Plus introduction is what FamilyLink is still lacking, despite repeated complaints from users.

Even if you were to pay for FamilyLink Plus, you still wouldn’t be able to either import or export your family tree.

GEDCOM

The FamilyLink Plus announcement does not mention GEDCOM support. The reason for that omission is that FamilyLink still doesn’t support either GEDCOM import or GEDCOM export. Even if you were to pay for FamilyLink Plus, you still wouldn’t be able to either import or export your family tree. That’s ridiculous.

Doesn’t FamilyLink understand that Geni’s GEDCOM import allows them to grow faster? Aren’t they taking the Mundia and the Really Soon Now New FamilySearch competition seriously? Doesn’t FamilyLink understand that users want the ability to export their own data?

FamilyLink GEDCOM

The WorldVitalRecords blog post Creating GEDCOM Files From Personal Genealogical Database Programs For FamilyLink.com is not about FamilyLink.com née We’re Related, but about FamilyHistoryLink née FamilyLink.com.

The original FamilyLink web app, which was first renamed FamilyHistoryLink and then abandoned, did support GEDCOM import and export, but that does not imply that FamilyLink née WorldVitalRecords knows how to support GEDCOM.

A little known fact, first revealed in the 2009 Jul 9 GenealogyWise article, is that the original FamilyLink site was not much more than a rebranded installation of The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding (TNG) version 6, created by Darrin Lythgoe. They never even bothered to upgrade to version 7.

FamilyLink née WorldVitalRecords has claimed that its ning.com site GenealogyWise is a replacement for FamilyHistoryLink née FamilyLink.com, and would allow users to share their family tree. To make good on that promise, some GenealogyWise (i.e. ning.com) app has to offer GEDCOM support like FamilyHistoryLink née FamilyLink.com did, yet no GEDCOM support seems to be forthcoming in any FamilyLink product or service.

With FamilyLink née WorldVitalRecords’ history of repeatedly promising GEDCOM support in FamilyLink.com née We’re Related, but not delivering, it would be strange not to wonder whether FamilyLink née WorldVitalRecords is both willing and able to provide GEDCOM support.

competition

Competition in the social genealogy space is increasing. OneGreatFamily has introduced the GenealogyCloud service. MyHeritage keeps growing by acquisition. Ancestry.com has introduced Mundia.com. It is not entirely impossible that this is they year in which Johnny-come-lately FamilySearch finally introduces New FamilySearch (NFS), the social genealogy site it promised a decade ago. Geni.com has just added support for sources.

If FamilyLink née WorldVitalRecords does not hasten to improve the basic capabilities of FamilyLink.com née We’re Related soon, they need not bother to improve it anymore, but will only need to wonder how much they can get MyAcquisitions to pay for it.

Plus

I do not recommend paying for any social genealogy service that does not even allow you to export your own data, but suppose you were to ignore that advice - what would you get in return for your subscription fee if you were to opt for FamilyLink Plus?

The FamilyLink blog post Introducing FamilyLink Plus! list the following four benefits of Plus subscription:

Map My Ancestors

The last item is listed as a benefit of a Plus subscription, even though it is also described as coming soon - and it may not be wise to hold your breath for anything FamilyLink promises.

Virtual Gifts & Memorials

Virtual Gifts & Memorials are not really of any benefit. It is well established by now that users are willing to pay for virtual items in games, but only because such items benefit them in-game. I wonder how many users want to pay FamilyLink for hundreds of figurines, icons, badges, flowers, and flags that allow you to spruce up your family tree.

FamilyTree Matching

FamilyTree Matching sounds useful, but is another Plus feature with a description that include the disillusioning words coming soon.

Advanced Ancestor Matching

That leaves just Plus feature: Advanced Ancestor Matching. The description of this Plus feature reads

Instantly find your ancestors in 1.4 billion records from more than 12,000 databases. This feature also allows you to find tombstone photos, old yearbook photos, birth and death records, census records and much more ($99 value!).

Apart from the Instantly find marketroid hyperbole (a.k.a. as false advertising), this description sounds very familiar. It sounds like a subscription to the WorldVitalRecords site.

US$ 99 per month value?

The FamilyLink Plus subscription bills the Advanced Ancestor Matching as $99 value. Never mind that the WorldVitalRecords site lists a subscription as US$ 99,95 value and the blog post claims it is a US$ 99 value, what’s really odd here is that FamilyLink advertises FamilyLink Plus using monthly subscription fees, and then throws in a yearly fee without clearly stating that it is a yearly subscription fee. It is presented as a one-time fee, and mentioned within a blog posts that mentions monthly fees.

The FamilyLink blog post seems to be saying that Advanced Ancestor Matching (WorldVitalRecords) is a US$ 99,95 a month value.
Getting that US$ 99,95 a month value for only for only US$ 7,95 per month sure sounds like a sweet deal. That is US$ 92 a month saved! And if saving that much isn’t spectacular enough yet, you can also purchase a yearly membership for only $4,95 per month, to save US$ 95 per month.

paying twice

It is not clear whether the FamilyLink Plus subscription offers full access to WorldVitalRecords, or whether it can only be used for Ancestor Matching, but that hardly matters. It does not even matter that I believe WorldVitalRecords to be overpriced, because most of what they offer can be had elsewhere for free.

What does matter is that if you consider WorldVitalRecords to be worth its subscription free, you’ve probably subscribed already, and do not want to pay twice. FamilyLink needs to address that, and I suggest they do so by including the FamilyLink Plus in the WorldVitalRecords subscription.

disappointment

The FamilyLink blog claims that a Plus subscription four benefits, but two of these do not exist yet, virtual gifts aren’t a genealogical benefit, and the fourth is access to WorldVitalRecords. That is the only real improvement, and most of WorldVitalRecords 1.4 billion records can be accessed for free. The ability to match your family tree profiles against all their database records sounds interesting, but becomes a rather underwhelming feature when can neither import your family tree into nor export your family tree out of FamilyLink. All in all, FamilyLink Plus is a disappointment.

FamilyLink née We’re Related remains a seriously underwhelming service, and the FamilyLink Plus subscription does not offer any real improvement.

I do congratulate FamilyLink née WorldVitalRecords on their revolutionary new business model; demanding a subscription fee for access to non-existent premium features.

updates

2010-04-09 programmer leaves

A few days after this article was first posted, FamilyLink’s Chief Social Officer - i.e. the FamilyLink née We're Related programmer - tweeted that he had decided to move on.

2010-04-09 00:24 jasonmcgowan After an amazing ride at FamilyLink I have decided to moving on to my own thing. Thanks to all those who I have worked with over the years!

2011-04-23: FamilyHistoryLink & FamiLink blog

The FamilyHistoryLink domain is defunct. The broken link has been removed.

The WorldVitalRecords blog still exists, but the FamilyLink blog appears to have been taken offline.

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