The (already!) multi-million dollar startup Geni has a lot going for it. It taps into the obsessive “art” of genealogy – once you get going, you can’t stop. It has tons of money (from 0 to a 100MM in two months!) and a huge work-force. Unlike all other genealogy websites: it doesn’t really need maintenance. Family trees are created by the users, and maintained by the users. End of story.
But Geni is missing something – the big picture. I can create a family tree and propagate it as well as I can, and sure, I can invite anyone ON the tree to join in the fun – just put their email in the box, and they’re invited to join the family tree and start expanding. But the problem is, it’s lacking the one thing that makes genealogy so exciting: finding someone new.
It’s built on the same concept as LinkedIn, hell, it’s the same exact principle to the T. You invite users to your personal “tree,” and they put the people they know. The people they know connect to the people you know and you suddenly know the people you never knew to know. That’s great, so I can invite anyone that I already added to the tree, and they’ll expand the tree to contain the rest of the family – or what they know of it.
What about searching though? You know, like, search for someone that put xx and yy as their grandfather and grandmother with at least a 60% match for uncles and aunts. Isn’t that what genealogy is all about? It’s not about writing down who’s who, it’s about the thrill of finding someone new. Technically, the way Geni is currently set up, you’re unlikely to find someone you never new existed.
It’s not that the technology doesn’t make it possible, but that in order for you to find someone you didn’t know existed, someone you know must already know that person. So the likelihood that your relative is related to someone that you’re related to too and you didn’t know about it is what counts – and that’s quite a slim chance there.
Geni is great. It’s addictive, it’s certainly better than MySpace & Co. and it’s a hell of a lot more real too. But until Geni adds the ability to search for family trees that coincide with yours and let you know they exist, it’s not taking advantage of even a tenth of its potential. Maybe Geni is waiting for more trees first, or maybe they’re just waiting for someone to post and ask. Either way, here’s to hoping this gets implemented – and soon!