Modern Software Experience


Numeric advantage explained


As I was looking around for data to calculate the average size of a family tree, I noticed something that I did not want to bury as a detail in another article.

We’re Related

The 2009 May 21 press release We’re Related on Facebook Becomes One of the First Verified Applications, posted on the WorldVitalRecords blog, states that there are more than 40 million people who have defined nearly 200 million family relationships, and that works out to less than 5 relationship per user, an that is an average size of less than six individuals.


The Geni press release of 2009 Mar 30, Geni Announces Pro Accounts With Advanced Search, Tree Statistics, and More, states that More than 3 million users have created more than 50 million profiles for their relatives., and that averages out to more than 16 profiles per user.


The most obvious observation is that both vendors like to make noise about how many profiles and users they have, but that the number of profiles per user is remarkably small.

The more interesting observation is this; if We’re Related has about 5 profiles per user, and Geni has about 16 profiles per user, than Geni somehow manages to pull in three times as much as profiles per user than We’re Related does. That’s a remarkable difference.

Both applications have millions of users. This result is not some fluke caused by too small a sample, and the difference cannot be explained away by the rounded numbers either, it really is statistically significant. So what’s the difference?


Both companies have been promoting their service quite aggressively and reached another audience than desktop genealogy applications do. There is some overlap, but there is no doubt that these applications cater to a different crowd. Perhaps these two applications appeal to different groups as well?

Geni and FamilyLink both use Quantcast web bugs to track visitors, and the Quantcast profiles for and are not very different.

web versus FaceBook

Another difference between Geni and We’re Related is that Geni started as a web application, and We’re Related started as a FaceBook app. Geni has as FaceBook app now, and the site is We’re Related on the web, but these are recent developments.

That one is a web app and the other a FaceBook app would explain a difference in audience, but their audience seems practically identical.

The idea that a web user would enter more family members than a FaceBook is plain silly. If anything, you’d expect it to be other way round.
After all, FaceBook users can select their family members from their friend list. That sounds like a huge advantage, and is essentially the reason why We’re Related is on FaceBook in the first place - and despite that advantage, Geni still beats them, and not just by a small margin but several times over. Curiouser and curiouser.

numbers matter

Those numbers in those press releases are in those press releases because they matter. A large number of profiles tells you that there is lots of data. The more data they can boast, the likelier you are to come and check it out, to find out whether there are some distant relatives in there. A large number of users shows that the service is popular, and that you might connect to other researchers, even living relatives.

However, the raw numbers themselves mean very little. Ten million profiles might be ten times the same million profiles over and over again. Ten million users might be ten million installs or sign-ups, but how many of these are still active users today?


If the application is hard to use, people will leave almost immediately. If they like the application, they will stick around to add more profiles. That makes profile / user ratio (P/U ratio) is an interesting metric.

P/U ratio

The P/U is a numeric indicator of how much those users enjoy the application, perhaps even of how likely they are to recommend it to others.
Somehow, Geni rates thrice as high as We’re Related.

Apparently, GEDCOM support makes a social genealogy site grow three times as fast.

the difference

I’ve played around with both applications, and they are slightly different, but not shockingly different.
There is only one major difference; Geni supports GEDCOM and We’re Related does not. Apparently, GEDCOM support makes a social genealogy site grow three times as fast.

The We’re Related application used to have GEDCOM support once, but that was removed for no apparent reason, and replaced with nothing but repeated promises that it would return within weeks…

Some quick arithmetic suggests that Geni’s GEDCOM import feature is indeed enough to triple the profile / user ratio.
For example, if we assume that 1% of all Geni users upload a GEDCOM file of 1.000 individuals - and that is neither a very large percentage nor an unreasonable GEDCOM size - then we have explained the increase from 500 profiles per hundred users to 1500 profiles per hundred users already.

Geni is beating We’re Related because Geni has GEDCOM support and We’re Related does not. GEDCOM support matters.


update 2009-06-18

Family’s CEO Paul Allen tweeted that he thinks the above calculation is not correct. I kindly assumed that five relationships equals six profiles (and then rounded the numbers for ease of calculation), but he thinks I should only have counted each user as one profile;

2008-06-18 11:10 paulballen @TamuraJones 200MM relationships is different than profiles. If I have a sis, mom, and 2 cousins, that is 4 relationships for me (1 profile)

Taking his correction into account, We’re Related does not have some 240 M profiles as assumed above, but only 40 M profiles. That makes Geni not just 3 time as successful as We’re Related, but about 15 times as successful. Apparently, GEDCOM support matters a lot.

update 2009-07-20

FamilyLink sent out press releases announcing that We’re Related surpassed 5 M users, who made more than 300 M connections. That averages to six connections per user.

update 2010-04-16 tweets that there are 85 M profiles and 5 M users, so the P/U ratio is 17 now, still beating FamilyLink née We’re Related.

2010-04-16 06:10 geni There are now over 85 million profiles and 5 million claimed users on Geni!