This morning, Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, announced that it will be “retiring” five of its properties/services as of 5 September 2014:
I’m sure there are many questions and there will be an ongoing conversation for weeks to come. Let’s remember and use our best skills as genealogists: RESEARCH! This means don’t rely on someone else’s posting at Facebook with misinformation about other Ancestry properties or that Ancestry is next going to do [insert fantastically wild guess based on no concrete information at all].
Yesterday afternoon I participated in a group conference call with several other bloggers to learn the news directly from Ancestry.com upper management and to have our questions answered. See my analysis below of each of these properties including how and why they are shutting down.
For the latest information please visit the Ancestry blog at http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry. And to engage in a conversation with other Ancestry.com users and the staff at Ancestry, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Ancestry.com.
- From Ancestry: Current MyFamily users can export their data to a zip file which will contain photos as .jpg files, messages as .txt files etc. Both subscribers (paying members) and users (family members) will be able to access and download data through 5 September 2014. Refunds will be issued on a pro-rata basis and effective as of 5 June 2014.
- My feedback/insights: The handwriting was on the wall when several years ago Ancestry eliminated the free account feature at MyFamily. I estimate that 90% of those free users never converted to paying members of MyFamily. Also, given the target audience and demographic, MyFamily was a customer support nightmare for certain and probably detracted from the bottom line at Ancestry. In addition, in a world where more Baby Boomers are using Facebook to do the exact same thing they could do at MyFamily and for free, the product had been on life support for some time.
- From Ancestry: Between now and 5 September 2014, customers can continue working on current projects and even start new projects but they must finish by 5 September. No new project will be accepted after 4 September 2014. You can order copies of current/saved projects and even print them at home, but there is no data export feature available.
- My feedback/insights: I always suspected that the actual work to produce MyCanvas products was outsourced and this was confirmed on yesterday’s call. The name was not given, but it could be the very same providers used by Shutterfly, Snapfish, MyPublisher and other publication sites. I have used MyCanvas and thought it was a great product that just wasn’t marketed properly. As time went by, I’ve seen this market expand with other providers and it just didn’t make sense for Ancestry to keep MyCanvas alive. What I suspect we will see is other providers partnering with Ancestry to make it easy to export your Family Tree Maker and Ancestry.com Tree content to a self-published book or a keepsake.
- From Ancestry: All subscriptions will be retired, including member accounts and the ability to contribute to message boards and user home pages. Users can log in and export/print/save information between now and 5 September 2014. Some content on Genealogy.com will be preserved in read-only format including the GenForum message board, Family Tree Maker homepages and the most popular articles.
- My feedback/insights: A legacy property that Ancestry acquired years ago, the true value of Genealogy.com is in its domain name. I’ve always believed that this domain name should serve as a general “welcome mat” to all the Ancestry services and properties OR be an educational platform for newcomers to family history. We’ll see what Ancestry does with this site once the current content is archived and moved.
- From Ancestry: Mundia trees have always been a part of Ancestry.com. Members can download trees that they’ve created between now and 5 September 2014. Mundia trees can be accessed for free on Ancestry.
- My feedback/insights: I never understood Mundia. Ancestry did a stealth launch one Saturday night several years ago and it just never took off. I think it was intended as a way to connect with social media users but eventually Ancestry added social media share features into its current offerings including actual records.
Y-DNA and mtDNA tests
- From Ancestry: Only the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests are being eliminated; Ancestry is devoting more resources to the autosomal test which survey’s a person’s genome at over 700,000 locations and is not limited to just the paternal or maternal line. Effective immediately, Ancestry is no longer selling Y-DNA and mtDNA tests. Customers who have taken the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests can download their raw data at http://www.DNA.ancestry.com
- My feedback/insights: The elimination of the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests make total sense and Ancestry is keeping up with the evolving technology in the DNA field. One concern I have is what will be done with the actual DNA samples submitted (on the call Ancestry said they would be destroyed as specified in the Terms and Conditions agreed to by those test consumers). Several others on the call also asked if the samples couldn’t be retested using the autosomal test, especially if the sample were from someone who is now deceased. Ancestry has suggested that those who took the Y-DNA and/or mt-DNA tests call customer support with their questions.
I’m sure there will be plenty of speculation as to what Ancestry may do with some of its other low-performing properties and services in the future as well as legacy acquisitions. It is natural for a company to prune assets that don’t have a high return or a high usage and put resources towards both new technologies and more productive services. That’s all we are seeing here with this news from Ancestry. It has been my belief for sometime that Ancestry.com would eventually take some of these actions and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more properties to be retired over the next few years; this just makes good business sense.
Yes, there will be consumers and users who aren’t happy and some will ask why they should bother using other services from Ancestry (or even other vendors) and risk losing their data or uploaded information. I always tell other genealogists to make sure they 1) read the Terms and Conditions for any site where you upload data and 2) have an exit strategy for your data in terms of exporting it and importing it to a new platform.
Finally, although I don’t use all of the services targeted for termination by Ancestry, I agree with their move to focus on core services that help expand the ability to research and share one’s roots.
©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee