The big news today being talked about on social media by pretty much everyone involved in genealogy is the announcement by Ancestry about the end of Family Tree Maker.
It’s not the most popular of decisions, and as the day progresses the levels of anger are increasing.
I was at first surprised by the news. I received the email from Ancestry at around midnight Paris time and spent about 5 minutes wondering what I will do with my genealogical research in the future before I remembered that I actually run two pieces of genealogy-specific software, and have the information in these also saved in other formats (.doc, .xls, etc).
I stopped worrying about myself and my own research – knowing I will still be able to save my research if I am working offline (I also use Family Historian).
Roll around to this morning and I find myself thinking about this more (thanks to coffee, the neurons are firing and I can actually form coherent arguments and questions) and the impact of this decision is huge and, potentially, very damaging for Ancestry.
|Unhappy people. Source.|
The decision to retire the software is, in itself, unsurprising. Cloud-based apps and working online have become more and more popular in all areas of software development. I have the MS Office suite on my computer, for example, but work entirely through Office 365 for university and Google Docs for work. The linking of social media to software is an essential thing these days and the “Facebookification” of software (be it social media or other) is almost expected by the general public.
One only has to look at the new Ancestry site to see the direction that is being taken – ease of access, collaboration and social sharing. The pulling of FTM from the market is, sadly, the logical next step.
The big questions will come from the genealogical community – those of us who either work professionally (or are working towards working professionally) and how this decision impacts us. Questions like: How will we work offline? (Essential if we are in an archive with no Internet access or if we want to work offline to avoid distraction.) Will TreeSync be pushed out as an open source option for other software developers or will we be expected to upload a .ged any time we want to update an online tree?
Ancestry will need to reassure its users and the community as a whole that it will be listening to, and taking on board suggestions and, importantly, the needs of this community.