Geni, a world family tree site where users can build family trees by creating profiles for relatives and ancestors, has made big changes to what paid and free members can do on the site.
In this blog post Aug. 11, Geni announced that free, Non-Pro members can no longer add new profiles to the historical tree (any public part of the Geni tree) or merge profiles. Free members still can add to their private trees.
Geni Pro subscribers, who pay $4.95 per month for a one-year membership, now have full permission to add on to, edit, and merge profiles in the historical parts of the tree, according to the blog post.
Pro users also can search through all the 110 million public profiles on Geni to find relatives to add to their trees. Free members can search and find only their close relatives in the historical tree, as well as profiles they added and profiles they follow.
“Close relatives” means 4th cousins and closer, as well as third-great-grandparents and closer. In-laws are included.
I’d like to make it clear that Basic (free) users did not lose their ability to view or edit any profiles as part of these changes,” says Geni CEO Noah Tutak. In fact, we did not change view or edit permissions at all. What we did is align permissions in the historical, public sections of the tree, beyond close relatives.
But comments on Geni’s blog post are largely negative. A common theme: Many members, some of whom have added hundreds or thousands of profiles to the site, feel Geni is cutting them off (without advance notice, according to the comments) after encouraging them for years to build its historical tree.
Losing control of their public data strikes fear in the hearts of genealogists. They dont like to idea of others merging their ancestors without having to compare notes first. They have visions of mistaken merges and incorrect names and dates replicating themselves across the internet.
Tutak thinks Genis changes will reduce such errors. These changes were designed to restrict merging to a smaller group of more engaged users, with the goal of increasing data quality, Tutak says. If a merge is made in error, the same set of tools are available now as in the past to correct mistakes. In the near future, we’ll provide even more robust tools to undo merges that will make correcting these mistakes, which are extremely infrequent, even easier
Several Pro users commented that theyll no longer be able to entice relativeswho arent likely to purchase Pro subscriptionsto collaborate on building their family trees.
A member with a free account can build out a large enough tree to get a good feel for the quality of Geni’s tools and decide whether or not they would like to use Geni for their entire tree, says Tutak.
The number of users contributing to the world [public] family tree is a small percentage of our overall user base, and so far we haven’t seen a slowdown in the growth of the tree due to these changes.
Family tree sites have struggled for years with how to build accurate trees that are large enough to attract additional contributionsthats why we’re still waiting for the trees feature on the new FamilySearch.org to be publicly available. Skewing benefits toward paying userswho, theoretically, are more heavily invested and knowledgeableis one approach. Its also likely to anger free members. Many comments on Geni’s blog predict that the site won’t survive this change.