Modern Software Experience


FamilyLink site


On 2008 Sep 19, visitors to the FamilyLink site discovered that the site had changed name, and was now known as FamilyHistoryLink. This change had not been communicated to the users of the site.
FamilyLink’s Director of Corporate Communications did not post anything on the corporate blog until several days after Randy Seaver posted his rantings, and by that time his comments only confirmed what I had already posted twice, first as comments on Randy’s blog and then as a short news article here.


A bit of googling revealed that FamilyLink’s CEO Paul Allen seemed to have given up on blogging, but had started using twitter, and had posted several messages about this change.
Although Paul Allen does seem to favour twitter nowadays, he had not given up on blogging, and had been blogging that very day, just not about FamilyLink, but about the facebook application We’re Related instead. I had started to follow Paul Allen’s tweets, and thus been able to update the article I wrote about that a few times already.


Recently, Paul Allen was tweeting about the FamilyLink site again.

2009-01-24 19:38 paulballen Checking out our new corporate web site that may go live today.

I guessed that the site was already live and public, just with a slightly different URL. That guess seemed to be right.

Beta FamilyLink

I checked out the site and tweeted a quick comment about what I had found, including the URL to show that I had found it.

2009-01-23 20:00 TamuraJones compliments @paulballen on clean look of the new FamilyLink site. Nice icons. Use of JS for fly-overs a pity.

Using on JavaScript for menus is bad practice. A site should not demand JavaScript, not demand that the user enable JavaScript, but work without it. Menus in particular should work without client-side scripting.

I challenged myself to do a twreview, a live review of the new site in just a few tweets.

2009-01-23 20:29 TamuraJones Breaking twreview of new FamilyLink. there is an upload GEDCOM option and a Possible Relatives feature. Issue: NoScript gives XSS warnings.

Beta FamilyLink XSS warning

NoScript is the handy Firefox add-on that offers even more protection against scripting shenanigans than Firefox itself does. If you are not using it yet, install it now.
One particular thing NoScript warns against is cross-site scripting (XSS), a suspicious practice That’s mostly used in evil JavaScript-scams. Demanding JavaScript is bad already, triggering XSS warnings is much worse.

2009-01-23 20:31 TamuraJones Breaking twreview new FamilyLink. Integration with Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, Google Talk and Picasa: cool. Asking for gmail password: uncool.

An not entirely unexpected evolutionary feature of this new version of FamilyLink is that it integrates with various other services, including various social sites and Picasa.
That this new version still asks for my gmail password when I sign up is reprehensible. Asking for a password to another service is wrong, period. There are interfaces to get contacts without asking users for their password. What’s worse, is that FamilyLink is doing it again, after I commented upon this unprofessional practice already.

2009-01-23 20:39 TamuraJones @paulballen Reread Note links to contact API for contacts w/o password demand.

If you read the referenced article already, the next tweet will hardly surprise you. FamilyLink wants to build a large user base quickly, and therefore does not want to charge for its family tree applications, but it does need to generate income to offset the cost of running those applications.

2009-01-23 20:52 TamuraJones Breaking threview: New FamilyLink apparently add-supported. Current add to win an iPhone, but introduced in 2002? 2006? 2007? A: 2007-01-09.

Those few tweets covered up the most important facts and features. I added just a final tweet to wrap it all up.

2009-01-23 21:09 TamuraJones Breaking quick twreview conclusion: The new FamilyLink is reaching out with web integration and connectivity. That could attract many users.

The does not seem to be the beta for the upcoming corporate, but a beta for the next version of what is now known as

This new version shows the first steps towards integration between FamilyHistoryLink and We’re Related. I guess FamilyLink hopes to integrate these applications to such an extent that the web app and the face book application will just be two different ways to access the same family tree data.

A few hours later, Paul Allen confirmed the issues I mentioned, and dropped the URL for the corporate site.

2009-01-24 01:49 paulballen @TamuraJones We’re all over this, Tamura! Thanks.

2009-01-24 02:00 paulballen FamilyLink’s site is getting close to being ready to announce and link to from our highest traffic web sites

I immediately decided to check it out. Sadly, the new corporate site does not look half as good as the new FamilyHistoryLink site.

New Corporate FamilyLink ugly

It was an ugly mess, that looked as if it was thrown together by multiple designers that either never bothered to communicate, or decided to compromise by including all the competing styles they came up with. It is an ugly, distracting visual mess.

2009-01-24 02:37 TamuraJones @paulballen Similarities with beta.familylink are nice, but corporate site lacks consistent style. Design by committee?

2009-01-24 02:39 TamuraJones Too many different colours, fonts, gradients, heading & links. Slideshow w/buttons is ugly. Suggest redoing it as transparent fly-over menu.

That last suggestion was off-the-cuff. I am not so sure that anything vaguely resembling that slide show should take the centre of a corporate home page at all. It is much to similar to useless and annoying flash animations that make you browse away to another site. The centre space is probably much better used to highlight the latest corporate news.



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