Modern Software Experience

2010-12-29

technology

bye-bye Google Wave, hello Apache Wave

In 2009, Google Wave was big news and everyone wanted an invite. In 2010, Google Wave became open to everyone, but no one seemed to care anymore. Mid 2010, Google discontinued Wave. The specs and source remain open. Google Wave lives on in Novell Pulse and Google will use some its technology in other Google products. Google also decided to finally do what it should have done in the first; deliver a complete and working open source implementation. The Google Wave project became Apache Wave.

Bloglines Logo

bye-bye Bloglines, hello Bloglines

In September, Ask.com told users that they had to wave goodbye to Bloglines, a popular online feedreader, and the only serious competition for Google Reader. According to Ask.com main reason is that many people prefer real-time feeds; they abandoned Bloglines and Google Reader in favour of twitter and FaceBook. However, MerchantCircle thought differently and bought Bloglines before it closed down.

Internet Explorer 9 Logo

browsing the web

Major sites turned of support for Intranet Explorer 6. The European Union forced Microsoft to introduce a browser selection screen on Windows. Browser development continued rapidly, with the focus shifting away from JavaScript to web fonts, HTML5 and CSS3, user interface changes and security improvements.
Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer 9, their first web browser in a decade, and Microsoft seems intent to compete with Opera, Firefox, Safari and Chrome,  but only on Windows Vista and Windows 7; Windows XP users remain stuck with Intranet Explorer 8; not the best way to win back market share. Intranet Explorer 8 remained the most popular tool to download a web browser with. Google came to rescue of users stuck with Internet 7 or 8 by taking Chrome Frame out of beta.

smartphones and tablets

Apple introduced the iPhone 4 after the iPhone 4 leak. Its high price, antennagate and regular controversy over App Store decisions did not stop the iPhone 4 from selling briskly. The competition from Google Android heated up, and Android overtook iOS as the most popular smartphone platform. Early Android phones were ugly and underpowered, this year saw many good looking and capable Android phones, but Android still lacks standard desktop software like Palm Desktop for Palm OS or Apple iTunes for iOS.

Many companies have left the Symbian Foundation, leaving Nokia in control over Symbian^3. Nokia remained dominant, but continued its steady decline, not in the least because Nokia's desktop software is plain horrible. However, the Samsung Kies software for the Samsung Galaxy S, an Android phone, is worse.
Palm and its Web OS were bought by Hewlett-Packard. Samsung Bada was available on just one phone. BlackBerry did not do badly and Microsoft tried for the umpteenth time to make Windows Mobile popular with yet another name change and new version number.

Apple introduced the iPad; an oversized, overpriced and underspecced iPhone that you cannot make calls with. The iPad is a custom device for running iPhone and iPad apps, which you acquire by racking up credit card charges in the Apple iTunes store.

The iPad is serious competition for the Amazon Kindle, but the Kindle continues to be Amazon.com's number one selling item. Various vendors are offer better-specced Windows and Android tablets, but the iPad continues to sell very well.

The iPad intensified the simmering battle between Apple and Adobe over Flash on the iPhone, with open letters published by both the Apple and Adobe CEOs. A growing number of developers is realising that closed systems like Flash do not really belong on an open web.

trends

Laptops and netbooks are selling well, but the desktop PC remains popular. Desktops with multi-core CPUs are common. Even low-end PCs have a dual-core CPU now. Most applications are not available in 64-bit editions yet, but installing a 64-bit operating system instead of a 32-bit one isn't uncommon. Power users have PCs with more than 4 GB of RAM and running a 64-bit edition of their operating system to take advantage of it. The latest browsers are taking advantage of the computing power of modern graphics cards to accelerate 3D rendering.

USB SuperSpeed

Not only are desktop PCs are selling without floppy drives, and without serial or parallel ports now, Sony even stopped production of 3,5" floppy disks. CD drives have been effectively replaced by DVD drives and my latest PC has already has a Blu Ray-drive. USB devices remain immensely popular. Most are USB 2 Hi-Speed devices, but USB 3 SuperSpeed devices are beginning to appear.

Cloud computing remains incredible overhyped, but for better or worse, we are increasingly putting are digital life in the clouds. We not only use FaceBook and Twitter to connect to others, we use Flickr to share photos and increasingly rely on web apps. We use webmail, online office software, on-line backup and on-line family trees. Google's ChromeOS is even largely based on the idea that you don't need desktop applications anymore, because everything you need is on the web. The widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets certainly is good news for developers of web apps.

The Windows versus MacOS wars are not over, but the hottest battlegrounds are smartphones and tablets. Android phones are gaining on the iPhone, and many already consider Blackberry OS, Symbian^3 system and Windows Mobile as also-rans.
Early iPhone ands Android adopters are not happy; Apple's iPhone 3 can hardly run iOS 4 and buyers of early Android phones have to wait months for upgrades from Android 2.1 to 2.2, while 2.3 is already out. Apple introduced the iPad. Google may ship ChromeOS soon, yet many manufacturers eager to produce an iPad-killer are producing tablets running Android, and consumers are buying them. High-end smartphones like the iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S feature a high-resolution display, and the first phones with dual-core CPUs are appearing.

genealogy

Footnote logo

take-overs and mergers

In 2009, the Fair Trade Commission referred the BrightSolid takeover of Friends Reunited, which includes Genes Reunited, to the Competition Commission. In March of this year, BrightSolid completed the takeover.

FamilyLink seems increasingly irrelevant. They remained silent about the future of GenSeek, but the website does not even show a login screen anymore. They discontinued WebTree. They sold WorldVitalRecords.au, and tried to sell the FaceBook MyFamily application they bought a few years ago.

Early in February, MyHeritage announced that it had taken over The OSN Group, better known as Verwandt.de and DynasTree. Shortly after that, MyHeritage announced that it had also taken over Zooof, a small Dutch company.

Ancestry was flush with money from their 2009 IPO, and started to spend it on some acquisitions. They bought the Swedish Genline.se service, the ProGenealogist company and iArchives - the parent company of Footnote.com. That last take-over surprised many. All three companies are still operating under their own brand name.

desktop software

Late last year, RootsMagic introduced RootsMagic Essentials. Late this year, just after FamilySearch replaced their home page with a new one that no longer promotes PAF, Incline Software introduced Ancestral Quest Basics, a free edition of Ancestral Quest that is likely to become very popular with former PAF users.

There were few major genealogy software releases. RootsMagic introduced version 4 last year. This year, frequent updates provided defect fixes and small enhancements. Millennia focussed on NFS support, and did not even mention plans for Legacy 8 yet. Wholly Genes is likely to release to TMG version 8 in 2011.

Ancestry.com released Family Tree Maker 2011 on 2010 Aug 31. It was just a Family Tree Maker for Windows upgrade, Family Tree Maker for MacOS was introduced later, as a separate product. Ancestry.com markets Family Tree Maker 2011 as a major new version of Family Tree Maker, but that it only because Ancestry.com insists on releasing a major version each year; FTM 2011 is really just a service pack of fixes and enhancements on top of FTM 2010.
MyHeritage seems to be doing yearly releases too and Family Tree Builder version 5 introduced several new features, but the evil behaviour introduced with version 3 remains.

Synium introduced MacFamilyTree 6, their biggest upgrade yet. MacFamilyTree is a fat binary; it will run on both PowerPC and Intel Macs. Ancestry.com re-introduced Family Tree Maker for Mac, but the New Family Tree Maker for Mac has less features and is more expensive than the Windows application, and only runs on Intel Macs.

Webtrees

genealogy on the web

It was a pretty good year for web genealogy software.
The GRAMPS project turned ten on 2010 Apr 21. A few weeks before that, on 2010 Mar 29, it got a new web site that is much more welcoming than the GRAMPS Wiki. The Windows download remains too Linux-like, and still demands that the user install many Linux tools first, but there is the much easier to install Portable GRAMPS. Portable GRAMPS may trail the main version, and it isn't linked to from the new web site; you have to look for it on the Wiki download page.
The first major update of the year was The Next Generation of Genealogy Site Building (TNG) version 8. The new release enhanced an already mature product. Some of TNG 8's main features are easier installation, a new image viewer and a Mod Manager.

There were several new genealogical web applications.
Webtrees (not to be confused with FamilyLink WebTree) is a new project; a group of PhpGedView developers decided to fork the PhpGedView project, and made some radical decisions to give it a fresh start. The Dutch Central Bureau of Genealogy introduced StamboomNederland and GenerationMaps introduced Family ChArtist.

Ancestry Wiki Beta

Last year, FamilySearch introduced a Wiki and this year, Ancestry.com introduced the Ancestry Wiki.
This year, Ning.com started asking money for ning networks; GenealogyWise stayed around, but ning.genmates closed.
MyHeritage introduced MyHeritage Backup, and some months after Geni.com introduced Tree Posters, MyHeritage introduced better looking posters. Social genealogy are turning genealogy into a game; Mundia now allows you to earn badges, and MyHeritage lets you play memory with photos of your closest relatives.
Mundia now provides access to more than two billion Ancestry.com Family Tree profiles, and Geni.com's Borg Tree connects almost 50 million profiles with each other. FamilySearch still did not the introduce their long-promised social genealogy site, New Family Search (NFS).

magazines

Several dead-tree magazines ceased publication in 2009 and in 2010 that trend continued. Ancestry discontinued Ancestry Magazine. Tip: all issues are freely available on Google Books now. Moorshead Magazines Ltd discontinued Discovering Family History. Moorshead still continues publication of Family Chronicle and Internet Genealogy.
The National Archives and Wharncliffe Publishing Ltd ceased publication of Ancestors magazine, but Wharncliffe soon introduced the new magazine Your Family History.
ABM Publications ceased publication of Practical Family History, the December Issue is the final issue. ABM continues publication of Family Tree Magazine.
Inside History is a new history & genealogy for Australia and New Zealand.

Who Do You Think You Are

television

There were quite a few genealogy and family history TV shows on mainstream television. The BBC continued its Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA) series. PBS showed Henry Louis Gates Jr's Faces of America. Early in 2010, NBC introduced the first NBC WDYTYA series. Late in 2010, the Dutch series Verborgen Verleden was introduced. Popular animated show The Simpsons did an episode with Lisa researching the Simpson family tree.

The mainstream genealogy TV sparked a predictable surge of interest in genealogy, but despite that surge, RootsTelevision was not doing well. On 2010 Feb 27 Megan Smolenyak announced that she was pulling the plug on RootsTelevision per 2010 Mar 10. Megan started RootsTelevision in the wake of WDYTYA's success and was now pulling the plug practically on almost the same day that NBC WDYTYA started airing in the USA, a series she herself appears in.
The geneasphere reacted shocked that she would simply let the entire archive disappear, and RootsTV continues with more advertising than before.

 

genealogy trends

The number of genealogy products continues to grow. This year, GenSoftReviews passed a remarkable milestone; more than five hundred genealogy software products and services. The continuing increase is partly because some lesser known and old products have been added, but largely because new products and services continue to be created.

A trend that continued this year is integration of desktop applications with social genealogy sites. Family Tree Maker integrates with Ancestry.com. Family Tree Builder integrates with MyHeritage.com. A growing number of product integrates with New FamilySearch (NFS). Such integration isn't significant until NFS is public, and NFS is decade-delayed already, but it is a trend nonetheless. The integration of these products is based on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and the number of such APIs continues to grow.
Last year, OneGreatFamily introduced their GenealogyCloud. This year, Geni.com introduced the Geni API. Several of these APIs are private and guarded like trade secrets. FamilySearch does not provide access to the NFS API unless you are a member of the LDS. OneGreatFamily charges licensing fees for their back-end. All in all, the current situation is a royal mess, that calls out for a genealogy API standardisation effort.

The growing popularity and capabilities of smartphones is reflected by a growing number of genealogy apps, mostly for iOS and Android devices. Several new apps have been introduced, often by new vendors. Several makers of desktop apps have released companion applications for smartphones. GHCS Software, the makers of GedStar for Palm OS, have introduced GedStar for Android.

MacFamilyTree 6 is the first 64-bit genealogy application; MacFamilyTree runs fine on PowerPC Macs and 32-bit Intel Macs, but if you are running MacOS 10.6 Snow Leopard on a 64-bit Intel processor, MacFamilyTree will run as a 64-bit application, for increased performance.
It is not unusual for new applications to demand fairly modern hardware and operating system, and it is not unusual for genealogists to stick with seriously dated applications either. While most users are running a 32-bit Windows operating system on a 64-bit capable processor, many genealogist continue to use 16-bit Windows applications or even MS-DOS applications.
Newer versions of Windows offer great backward compatibility with old MS-DOS and Windows applications, but it is not perfect. Family Tree Maker 16 needs a patch to run on Vista. Legacy Family Tree 7 does not work on Vista 64-bits. Many genealogists that upgraded their PC are finding that their old application does not run on their new system, and thus face a choice: either upgrade to a modern application, or run the old application in a virtual environment.

some hits and misses

Ancestry.com, FamilySearch and GenealogyBank continued to add to their already vast record collections. Footnote, now owned by Ancestry.com, continued its project to make every American census available. Geni.com became multi-lingual. Geni developed tr8n, their own tool for crowd-sourcing translations of the Geni interface, and then open-sourced their tool. FindMyPast introduced MarriageMatch, which is a marketing way of saying that they now offer a fully indexed, name searchable marriage index with search functionality to match.

The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) approved the creation of a chapter in Second Life. Whether that is a hit or a miss, only time will tell. The idea of a virtual chapter may be right, but Second Life, also known as Sadville, is a demanding and buggy application prone to crashing without obvious reasons.

Ancestry.com damaged their own reputation by claiming that Robert Pattinson descends from Dracula and issuing press releases that contradict each other over which Ancestry employee said what. Although repeatedly given a chance to provide proof, Ancestry.com PR naturally failed to produce any. MyHeritage insulted 425 bloggers by giving them a top genealogy site badge for not being a top genealogy site. 23AndMe send 96 customers the wrong DNA test results.
FindMyPast organised World Cup Widows, free access to FindMyPast during matches of the English football team in the World Cup; when England play, you don't pay. FindMyPast was poorly prepared for the predictable huge spike in traffic.

OpenGen

GEDCOM replacement

Shortly after introducing the misnamed GEDCOM XML draft to much fanfare, FamilySearch not only dropped GEDCOM XML, but silently stopped maintaining and supporting GEDCOM altogether. At first, they were remarkably silent on this matter. In recent years they've grown bolder. FamilySearch has repeatedly stated we don't GEDCOM, because NFS offers an API. That is, pardon le mot, a load of connerie. NFS is not even available.

It is a little known fact that interest in GEDCOM replacements is nearly as old as GEDCOM itself. There have been many proposals, none of saw broad industry adoption. This year saw two new initiatives that aim to replace GEDCOM with something new; first OpenGen and a few months later BetterGEDCOM. The OpenGen Alliance aims to bring developers together into a new organisation for genealogy. BetterGEDCOM is an initiative of four end-users that have organised their group around a wiki, to develop a GEDCOM replacement.

Scientific Genealogy

Early this year, I published three GEDCOM torture tests files and test results for some two dozen genealogy applications. Late this years, others started using these files to do their own tests.
I wrote the Ahnen Ahnung article series explaining what ahnentafel is and is not, and what a mess current abusage is. Several vendors and bloggers have started to pay may more attention to correct usage of ahnenlist, ahnentafel and ahnen numbering.
Another terminology article explains the confusing term Direct Descendant. Vital Records in Traditional Genealogy discusses the confusion between BMD records, vital records and civil records in traditional genealogy.

Some articles of a more general interest are Genealogical Principle: Fact, The Future of Genealogy and The Cost of Genealogy Software. A Gentle Introduction to GEDCOM does not describe the file format, but discusses basic facts and real-world issues. What is Genealogy? considers how to define genealogy and What is Genealogy II how genealogy relates to other subjects.

Adapted Ahnenlist introduces a slightly adapted ahnenlist that can handle both birth and adoptive parents. Extended Fan Chart and Fan Chart Plus introduce two innovations to fan charts that allow to show more individuals on same sheet of paper than a regular fan chart does.

The most important genealogy article series introduced the Genealogy Framework. The Genealogy Framework is a conceptual framework that provides a basis for scientific genealogy. Several articles explained what's wrong with traditional genealogy, and how the framework not only help to avoid the dogmatic mistakes of traditional genealogy, but also provides a basis for a solid, scientific approach to genealogy. A Hurried Introduction to Scientific Genealogy provides a very quick overview of these early scientific genealogy articles, with links to all of them.

GeneAwards

The GeneAwards 2010 provide an overview of the year's Best and Worst in Genealogy.

updates

2010-12-31 Sherwood Branches

Published one last review of a product introduced this year, Sherwood Branches 1.0. Link added under Desktop Software below.

2011-01-03 Borg Tree

The Borg Tree had assimilated a total of 50 million profiles on 2011 Jan 3.

2011-10-02 Discovering Family History

The Discovery Family History site is gone.

links

Google Wave

Google Wave Developer Preview

Google Wave Preview

Google Wave Genealogy

Bloglines

Internet Explorer

Chrome Frame

smartphones and tablets

take-overs and merges

BrightSolid

FamilyLink

MyHeritage

Ancestry.com

desktop software

Family Tree Maker

genealogy on the web

magazines

television

genealogy trends

genealogy APIs

hits and misses

GEDCOM replacement

Scientific Genealogy

Three Torture Tests

terminology

Ahnen Ahnung

General Interest

Innovation

Genealogy Framework