Modern Software Experience

2009-05-03

FamilyLink

sites

While still working towards the introduction of their GenSeek and WorldHistory sites, FamilyLink has renewed its FamilyLink web site again.

I first posted about the new FamilyLink site on 2009 Feb 1 and revealed the GenSeek site the next day.

That February FamilyLink article has screen shots of two different FamilyLink sites. One was the then new corporate FamilyLink web site, the other seemed more like a beta for their FamilyHistoryLink site.

FamilyHistoryLink

The FamilyHistoryLink site is the original FamilyLink site. When the company changed its name from WorldVitalRecords to FamilyLink, that site was suddenly moved to the FamilyHistoryLink domain, to make way for the new corporate site.

That move seemed to make some corporate sense back then, but FamilyHistoryLink isn’t half as good a name as FamilyLink.
When I looked at the beta.familylink.com site in February, I remarked that it seemed to be the beta for FamilyHistoryLink, but I did not expand on that thought. Surely beta.familyhistorylink.com was a more natural place for the next version of FamilyHistoryLink than beta.familylink.com, which relegated the corporate beta to corporate.familylink.com.

The problem with FamilyHistoryLink is that it was originally promoted as FamilyLink. Few visitors come to www.familylink.com for corporate information, most visit the site looking for a genealogy application. So it would make perfect sense to do what sites like Ancestry.com do; use the front page to provide visitors with what they expect to find, and provide a link to pages with corporate information.

FamilyLink Beta

Today, the beta.familylink.com site is still there. The ugly corporate familylink.com site is still there too, but has thankfully been displaced from the www.familylink.com home page to make way for the FamilyLink Beta.

FamilyLink Beta looks like FaceBook app

The new site does not look and feel like FamilyHistoryLink, but looks and feels like We’re Related. Or perhaps I should say it is the We’re Related application; the pending request you see in the screen capture above comes straight from the We’re Related site on FaceBook.

We’re Related

We’re Related is FamilyLink’s FaceBook application. On FaceBook, We’re Related faces competition from FamilyBuilder Family Tree, OneFamilyTree and Geni.com.

FaceBook

OneFamilyTree has both FaceBook and MySpace applications. The OneFamilyTree home pages mentions and keeps your family tree synchronised between your OneFamilyTree web site, FaceBook and MySpace accounts - which is probably just a fancy way of saying that the various applications all use the same database.

It is also what FamilyBuilder and Geni.com are already doing; you can access their database from both their web site and their FaceBook application.

FamilyLink

FamilyLink is playing catch-up. The new FamilyLink home page now integrates with We’re Related. A soon as I logged in, it showed the same information as the We’re Related app on FaceBook.

Perhaps it is more accurate to say that it does not just integrate with, but really is the FaceBook app, hosted on its own domain. Not only does it look and feel the same, but the photos are FaceBook photos, the invite buttons are FaceBook invite buttons, and the site keeps popping up FaceBook permission dialog boxes.

future

The FamilyLink Beta accomplishes two things; it provides the FaceBook application on its own web site, and it relegates the corporate web site to the background, to quietly get the make-over it so desperately needs.

FamilyHistoryLink

That’s nice, but there is a lot that this first FamilyLink Beta does not accomplish. It does not integrate with FamilyHistoryLink, the original FamilyLink.

OneGreatFamily

FamilyHistoryLink with OneGreatFamily advertisement

I visited FamilyHistoryLink and was surprised to notice that it was showing an advertisement for OneGreatFamily. All these sites are advertising-supported, but surely it is possible to block advertising from direct competitors - that FamilyLink did not bother to do that suggests they have either simply not been paying attention to this site.

…if you combine We’re Related with OneGreatFamily, the combination might surpass Geni.com in every important way.

Then again, maybe they are in talks with OneGreatFamily; perhaps their thinking is that if you combine We’re Related with OneGreatFamily, the combination might surpass Geni.com in every important way.

FamilyHistoryLink

The FamilyHistoryLink site seemed a bit neglected already, and now that the FamilyLink Beta site is out, it seems superfluous.

I was already thinking that FamilyLink would want to somehow integrate We’re Related with FamilyHistoryLink, and now it seems clear how they are going to do that; by building a new site, one that was designed from the start with FaceBook integration in mind.

WebTree

The look of the FamilyLink Beta is not unlike WebTree, another FamilyLink site. It has similar colours, fonts and both use large type with strong, simple designs. While FamilyHistoryLink, the FamilyLink Beta and We’re Related are about building a family tree, WebTree is about publishing it.

beta.familylink.com and FamilyLink Beta

The FamilyLink Beta is not the first FamilyLink web site to integrate with FaceBook. The beta.familylink.com already integrated with FaceBook.

Neither the FamilyHistoryLink nor the FamilyLink password seemed to work with beta.familylink.com, but I could log onto beta.familylink.com with my FaceBook identity.
That beta seems to have a GEDCOM import feature, but as soon as clicked the GEDCOM menu item, the web page filled with an error and a stack trace.

beta.familylink.com GEDCOM fail

impression

After playing a bit with both beta.familylink.com and the FamilyLink Beta site, my guess is that beta.familylink.com is just prototyping site, a playground for ideas, while the FamilyLink Beta is an early release of an end-user product.

Notice the We’re Related link in the lower left corner of the beta.familylink.com screen capture. There is no such link in the FamilyLink Beta site, because the We’re application has been truly integrated.

Among the ideas still on the beta.familylink.com site, and not in the current FamilyLink Beta are Twitter, Flicker and Picasa integration.

FaceBook My Family

It is a little known fact that FamilyLink has two genealogy applications on FaceBook; We’re Related and My Family. A distinctive feature of My Family is its collection of cute stick figures that give each family tree a playful appearance.

FamilyLink bought My Family on 2008 Jun 26. FamilyLink did gain the cute graphics and some 1,5 million My Family users, yet it still did not seem to make much sense to buy a less popular FaceBook application.

What made the My Family application interesting to FamilyLink is that it has a presence on FaceBook, Bebo, MySpace, Hi5 and Friendster. By buying the application, FamilyLink gained a foothold on those other social networks and the code that makes it work.

merge applications

It makes sense for FamilyLink to somehow merge the We’re Related brand with the My Family capabilities, to have just one We’re application on all these social networks, but they do not seem to be hurrying forward with this.
Perhaps their current thinking is simply that FaceBook is so dominant now, that the other networks are not all that important anymore.

That the new FamilyLink Beta integrates with We’re Related does not reveal how or when FamilyLink will move forward with integrating My Family. They might integrate My Family with the FamilyLink Beta like they’ve integrated We’re Related, even if their final goal is to merge My Family and its capabilities into We’re Related. All the support for We’re Related confirms is that FamilyLink considers We’re Related to be the more important application.

We’re Related

A major user complaint about We’re Related is that FamilyLink keeps promising GEDCOM support, but does not seem to exert much effort towards actually fulfilling that promise.

The new FamilyLink Beta site is probably part of the explanation for their apparent tardiness; FamilyLink was focussing on realising the web integration to the exclusion of other features, even important ones such as GEDCOM support.

Perhaps this FamilyLink Beta will evolve to be FamilyLink’s central site that all other sites and applications will integrate with, so that many features need only be developed for specific applications or this site.

updates

2011-04-23 FamilyHistoryLink & GenSeek

The FamilyHistoryLink & GenSeek sites are defunct. The broken links have been removed.

FamilyLink abandoned WebTree too. See WebTree no more. The broken WebTree link has been removed

links

FamilyLink

FaceBook

competition

press releases