Genealogy Is All About Change . . . .
By now, many genealogists and family historians have learned of the bombshell announcement from Ancestry.com yesterday in their blog post Ancestry to Retire Family Tree Maker Software. There will be no more sales of the most popular genealogy software after the end of 2015 and Ancestry.com will only support existing versions of Family Tree Maker through the end of 2016.
And while the mob with its torches, pitchforks and rakes gather at the Ancestry.com castle out for revenge and making demands or starting online petitions to keep a dying (and some would say already dead) program alive, let’s look at one of the main reasons for Ancestry’s decision.
It’s the Subscription Economy, Stupid.
Over the past few years, if you’ve taken a close look at products and services, you’ve noticed a shift from “ownership” to “rental.” Examples:
- The rise of Netflix and other streaming, monthly subscription services at the demise of brick-and-mortar stores like Blockbuster.
- An increase in “share” services, especially for large price items such as cars: services such as Zipcar are very popular in many cities.
- In addition, cities like Chicago where I live, have seen the increasing use of “bike sharing systems” such as Divvy with its $75 yearly fee or $9.95 a day pass.
- More and more software vendors have already moved to an online version including Microsoft Office 365 and QuickBooks.
So what is driving this new subscription economy? The Millennials and their purchasing power. In The Subscription Economy: A Business Transformation, we see a move towards monthly or yearly subscription based products such as software which have traditionally been a “one time purchase so I own it” product.
The truth is that the Millennials don’t see the value in ownership of certain items. Some of it is related to limited economic resources and being judicious in how they spend their money. In addition, Millennials appreciate the freedom that comes with not being tied down to a product: if they want to move from QuickBooks to FreshBooks, they can just cancel their monthly subscription and do so.
Take a look at this infographic, Millennials Coming of Age, by Goldman Sachs, for a better understanding of how this dynamic group of consumers is turning the purchase of products and services upside-down in the 21st century.
Why Do Businesses Love the Subscription Model?
From a business perspective, there are many benefits to dropping the traditional product ownership model, such as buying Family Tree Maker and installing it on your computer and moving towards a web-only subscription model:
- Lower costs having to support older versions of a product.
- Lower costs in having to program new updates.
- Lower costs in having to push out new versions.
- All customers are now on the same version of a program.
- Businesses can more easily build customer loyalty and leverage the “tribe” concept.
The Future: Genealogy Un-tethered
Personally, I think the Ancestry.com move is a smart one. It allows them to focus more on their website and core customer base. In monitoring various online conversation including Facebook (where there has been much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair), here are some predictions for the future of genealogy software:
- The demise of Family Tree Maker is just the start of the trend in the genealogy market. However, I predict that programs such as RootsMagic and Legacy Family Tree will be on the market for at least another five years.
- For the genealogy professional who are not fans of keeping client data online, Ancestry and other platforms will act as a “relay” system to access data stored on your computer. While the marketing staff want you to “share” as much as possible, doing so just is not feasible for those business owners who perform genealogy research for clients.
- Eventually even the operating system for your computer will be “online;” most, if not all, of the current genealogy software programs will have to embrace the subscription model in order to be relevant and to survive.
The death of Family Tree Maker for me is like the death of an old friend: I first purchased the product from Banner Blue software in the 1990s. But it has served its purpose and I’m looking forward to what we’ll see in the future when it comes to storing and managing genealogy research data.
©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.