Monday, August 15, 2011

"Geni Pro Just got a Whole Lot Better." But what about Geni Free?

The Geni Blog posted Geni Pro Just Got a Whole Lot Better on 11 August, and it has generated over 400 comments already.  Most of the comments complain about the restrictions of the Free account side of  The blog post notes that:

"With this release, there are a few changes to the way search works as well. All users will continue to be able to find their close relatives, profiles they added, and profiles they follow. A Pro subscription is now required to searching through the 110+ million profiles on Geni to find new relatives to add to your tree.  Please note:
  • View and edit permissions have not changed. You can continue to view your close relatives and the entire historical tree, and you can continue to edit your closer relatives and profiles that you’ve added.
  • All users can continue to build a family tree of their close relatives for free, and invite their relatives to view and contribute to that tree.
  • Pros do not have any additional privileges on private profiles.
The Geni blog post provides some questions and answers about this change in the Geni free and Pro subscriptions.  Several Geni team members have responded to some of the user comments.  The overall tenor of the comments is hostile.  The issues seem to be:

*  Free users cannot add profiles further back than third great-grandfather
*  Free users cannot add fifth cousins or earlier to their tree
*  Free users cannot search for profiles of persons on the tree.
*  Free users had no warning of a change, and are frustrated by it

I'm sure I've missed some issues in trying to summarizing this. has Terms and Conditions that subscribers signed up to (did they read them?), and seemingly can make any policy changes they wish to about access for Free and Pro accounts. 

It may be that relents a bit on their changes for Free accounts.  One of the curators noted in a blog post comment:

"Hello fellow Geni users. I'm one of the volunteer curators on Geni, and I just want you to know that we're discussing all this amongst curators as well. We're just users like everyone else, and we haven't been 'elected' to represent the user community, but we're bringing all the issues together and I think we'll be able to be quite representative of what's on everyone's mind.

"The fact that we're seeing this uproar shows that we all enjoy Geni and that we care about its future.
The curator group that is actively collecting everyone's input should be in a position to communicate the user perspective to Geni as of this Monday. Stay tuned!"

Now, did the Pro account actually "get better?"  Some commenters disagree.  Here's one comment:

"I can see this was done to bring in more money, but in the long run this is going to hurt you. Pro users will no longer be able to entice their relatives to join and free users will no longer be attracted to join. Much of the content has been built by free users. We have suddenly lost this free benefit. As free users leave and less free users join, Pro users will then start to leave and the website will start to die. As a marketing director you should know this George. The community has been angered, and unless you do something fast to rectify it, will die."


"I hope you are listening to these comments. I am a pro user, but I absolutely do not see this as an improvement. The ability to work with members of my family who are not pro users (and never will be) is a huge benefit for pro users that you have just removed. If these restrictions had been in place when I started, I would most likely never have become a pro user.  Accept that you made a mistake and fix the errors. Then start communicating better as some of the other comments mention."

Read the whole thing if you have time.

For myself, I added about 1,000 persons to several years ago via a GEDCOM upload.  They were my ancestral families back eight generations.  I want to add more generations soon, so that I can figure out cousin relationships to celebrities.  However, Geni no longer has a GEDCOM upload feature. 

I received a gratis one-year Pro account from at the SCGS Jamboree as part of the Geneabloggers gift bag, which I greatly appreciate.  The AncestorSync program has potential to help me add content to the tree, but it is still in development and beta testing. So I'm waiting for AncestorSync to work flawlessly by interfacing with my RootsMagic tree and the Geni tree.  When it does, I will use AncestorSync to add content to my Geni tree.

Other genealogy bloggers commenting on the blog post include:

*  Tamura Jones on Modern Software Experience:  Geni Changes
*  DearMYRTLE on DearMYRTLE's Genealogy Blog: didn't ask my opinion
*  Diane Haddad on the Genealogy Insider blog:  Geni Draws Fire For New User Permissions
*  Elizabeth O'Neal on Little Bytes of LifeDear Geni: It's Not Me, It's You
*  Amy Coffin on The We Tree Genealogy Blog: Where Keggers and Social Genealogy Intersect
*  Thomas MacEntee on the Geneabloggers blog:  Geni: Stuck on Stupid
*  Leslie Ann on the Ancestors Live Here blog:  Geni. - OH NO YOU DIDN'T!
*  Chris Paton on the Scottish GENES blog:  Anger at
*  Thomas MacEntee on the Geneabloggers blog: Was I Too Rough on Geni?
*  Elizabeth O'Neal on the Little Bytes of Life blog:  Geni: On the Fence
*  DearMYRTLE on DearMYRTLE's Genealogy BlogOfficial Response from
*  Ginger Smith on the Genealogy by Ginger's Blog: - It's not Just Me After all

*  who else? 

If you have written a blog post on the changes, please let me know. 

Last updated: 3 p.m. 17 August

If you have a complaint or helpful comment about these changes, please make a comment on the blog post.  Commenting on my blog post won't help much, I think.

I think there are some lessons here for all online tree providers:

*  If it isn't broke, don't break it. 
*  Sense your customer base before a major change to access and permissions
*  Users will always balk at restrictions to the previous standard
*  Users will always appreciate expansions that provide them more access and capabilities.

I had one GeniWikiTree ( and WeRelate (  They are different, but the fit the requirements of my colleague, and free to use.


Chris Whitten said...

Thanks for mentioning WikiTree, Randy. We're getting a bunch of disgruntled ex-Geni users trying out the site.

It's hard to imagine what Geni was thinking here.

Gary Hoffman said...

The Cloud Genealogy SIG at CGSSD this Saturday could benefit from your insights to the happenings at Geni. Please come and help me out.

Xfaith said...

Ill have to look into this to. I have had alot of people join GENI (free) to upload our family tree. We might have to find a new site that we can collaborate on.

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

I'll stick with WikiTree... much better model for me. Thanks! ;-)

DearMYRTLE said...

Ol' Myrt's comments are posted at didn't ask my opinion

Elyse said...

Free is my favorite price, but giving other users the ability to "hijack" the stuff that I upload is pretty scary.

Makes me even more happy to be associated with WikiTree.

patientgenie said...

Thanks for the summary Randy, I went with WorldConnect years ago - could upload a gedcom and restrict it's download. Glad I didint go futher with when it first came out. You can only maintain info in so many places and retain some ownership/control


Root Digger said...

I had not joined Geni and it was not on my radar. Because of the new happenings with Geni, I don't see why I would even want to join, and won't.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. As a Pro user, I'm very unhappy with the recent changes at Geni. I exported my forest to Acenstry.

Steve Hayes said...

Not allowing GEDCOM uploads is probably a good thing, because the GEDCOM upload facility was broken - see — a flawed site | Hayes & Greene family history

james gross said...

Randi- saw your webpage blog. One of your visitors wrote: "Thanks for sharing. As a Pro user, I'm very unhappy with the recent changes at Geni. I exported my forest to Acenstry."

Geni removed the gedcom import option in early 2011. i am also a pro user and saw the gedcom import option as essential. I am sorry to see that it hasn't been reinstated.

i have also submitted my tree to ancestry (via rootsweb's worldconnect). I think the idea is to get your tree "out there" so people can see it and contact you.