Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Anger at

The online American based family tree website Geni ( seems to be having all barrels blasted at it by many of its users following a recent decision to convert its free accounts to a premium based service. The site recently announced a change to its user permissions as follows:

Geni Pro subscribers now have full permission to add on to, edit, and merge profiles in the historical parts of the tree. Non-Pros can no longer add new profiles to the historical tree or merge profiles

Essentially this means that unless you now have a paid for Geni Pro account, you can no longer continue to integrate your research with others or view other people's profiles on the site - a key part to how the site actually operates. Your tree can still be edited, but there are restrictions on how much you can now do - for example, you cannot apparently add profiles earlier than 3rd great grandfather. All a bit 'not cricket' really, with some now claiming to have been duped by the online company.

I first came across Geni at Who Do You Think You Are? Live three years ago, where I remember asking them to explain their funding model, which I could not understand. I even blogged about this lightheartedly at where I stated "And it is totally free, which I still don't understand...!". They even gave me a free t-shirt! I think I, like many others, assumed the funding would come from add on products. However, one real beef I had with the site was that it had a very aggressive e-mail policy at the time, to the point where I ended up listing the address as spam in my e-mail programme - not least because I had one or two users demanding equally aggressively that I allow them access to integrate my tree with theirs, which I refused as I had not verified their information.

Recently I was contacted by the site and asked to try the Geni Pro subscription, and even wrote an article about the main tree software, which is very good, for a leading computer magazine. However, it now seems that Geni may have just pulled the rug out from under a substantial part of its customer base, so I feel it only fair to alert anyone who read my piece to be aware of this new controversy.

I'll leave you to evaluate the arguments for yourself - the main Geni announcement on this is available at Reaction from several blogs is also available, most notably Thomas MacEntee's post on Geneabloggers at which is a real from-the-heart appraisal from one of the site's previously major supporters. Other reactions are available from Dear Myrtle at , and Genea-Musings at

(With thanks to Geneabloggers for flagging it)



George Gearhart said...

Hi Chris,

Thanks for writing; we understand why our users are upset and we apologize for springing this announcement upon them instead of taking our time and slowly rolling out these changes while informing/educating the community. Of course, an apology must be followed by action, and we are as committed as we have ever been to creating the best collaborative genealogy product on the market.

Unfortunately the business model had to adapt to ensure that Geni will be around long into the future, and that has affected a portion of our users. We are listening to all feedback from users and bloggers alike. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.


Chris Paton said...

Thanks George - what action will you be taking?