Viral Genealogy

Viral Genealogy

Social networking sites may be the next frontier for genealogy.

Popular social networking sites such as MySpace <myspace.com> (110 million users at press time), Facebook <facebook.com> (more than 67 million users) and Bebo <bebo.com> (40 million users) may be the next frontier for genealogy software.

A Pew Research Center survey found that 22 percent of Americans use social networking sites. This is an audience ripe for viral marketing campaigns — those that “piggyback” on an existing network. Companies can promote their products to site members by creating social networking applications (SNAs), profile add-ons that let members do anything from sending other members virtual gifts to building a family tree. More than 95 percent of Facebook members have used at least one “app,” as site members call SNAs.

Facebook launched its SNA platform in May 2007, and now offers members a dizzying array of 15,000 apps. But until recently, developers

were slow to create SNAs because each network required different code. Then in October, Google <google.com> began testing Open Social, a framework developers can use to create SNAs for sites that opt to participate — those include MySpace (which was testing its own Open Social platform at press time), Bebo, Friendster <www.friendster.com>, LinkedIn <www.linkedin.com> and others.

Familybuilder (formerly iFamily) <www.familybuilder.com>, which launched on Facebook in June 2007, lets users set up family profiles (shown above right) with photos and national flags, import Geni <geni.com> family trees, and connect with other Familybuilder users. At press time, it had 2.2 million registered users (Facebook designated 33,700 of them as “daily active users”) and 8.5 million family profiles. The app launched on Bebo in February; by the end of the month, users there had created 104,000 family profiles.

The objective is “to give genealogy tools to Generation Y and younger, to help them connect with family who are still alive,” says Familybuilder spokesperson Myles Weissleder. The company received $1.5 million in investment capital for expansion to other networks.
 
FamilyLink’s <familylink.com> We’re Related app launched on Facebook in October 2007. A million users registered within the first 29 days; 60,000 are daily active users, with 70,000 profiles. Spokesperson Whitney Ransom says plans include rolling out to other networks, such as MySpace and Bebo.
 
From the July 2008 Family Tree Magazine 

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