For some time, Ancestry.com has been the undisputed leader in the online genealogical world. That dominance has been based on content and has not been seriously challenged. It appears that the content battle (of which genealogists are all beneficiaries) is heating up. Not that there is a "challenge" per se, but as other large online record collections continue to grow, there will be more options for online research and to the extent these online entities are in competition, there will be maneuvering going on at a very high level.
So who are the players that might challenge Ancestry.com's supremacy? Up until now, there have been no serious competitors. Now we see some of the non-U.S. based large genealogy content companies making decisive moves into the U.S. market and beginning to create a more diverse market. For example, brightsolid.com, the British database giant, has moved into the U.S. market with CensusRecords.com. Ancestry.com has not been idle in its acquisitions. It has acquired Genline.se and Footnote.com which it almost immediately converted into Fold3.com.
But there is a "new" player in the genealogical content market, MyHeritage.com. This Israel-based company purchased FamilyLink.com and WorldVitalRecords.com. There is no indication that MyHeritage.com is done with its expansion. In fact, that brings us back to the press release. So here is the release:
Doesn't this sound like MyHeritage.com is about to give Ancestry.com a run for the money? From my standpoint, I see this as being a very, very good thing. The genealogical community will benefit from the increase in competition and the innovations that are likely to occur.MyHeritage appoints industry heavyweights to spearhead global content growthAppointment of senior executives boosts MyHeritage’s US presence, drives growth of historical content and kick-starts preparations for worldwide crowdsourcing projectPROVO, Utah & LONDON & TEL AVIV, Israel – March 30, 2012 – MyHeritage, the most popular family network on the web, announced today the appointment of industry veterans Russ Wilding and Roger Bell to Chief Content Officer and VP Product, respectively. The former founders and lead executives of Footnote.com, acquired by Ancestry.com in 2010 for $27 million, will boost MyHeritage’s US operations in Utah by establishing a new department for adding historical content and rolling-out an extensive global crowdsourcing project.The new hires will strengthen MyHeritage’s leadership in the global family history market. Their mission will be to substantially grow historical record content to complement the unique combination of family social-networking and massive user contributed content that has catapulted MyHeritage to becoming the world’s largest network for discovering and sharing family memories. The move adds significant momentum to MyHeritage’s expansion into historical content, following its November 2011 acquisition of FamilyLink Inc. with a library of four billion records, and its recent announcement to make the 1940 U.S. Census available to users free of charge in April 2012.“We’re delighted to bring Russ and Roger on board as we enter a new period of vigorous growth”, said MyHeritage Founder and CEO, Gilad Japhet. “Their impressive track record as social thinkers within the family history world will be an ideal fit for MyHeritage, as we realize our vision of enabling families around the world to explore their family history, share important memories and stay connected.”A highly regarded visionary with proven execution capabilities within the family history market, Russ Wilding will establish and lead a new department that will acquire, license, transcribe, crowdsource and produce historical records - such as census, birth and marriage records. Russ brings a wealth of expertise in historical content acquisition, licensing and digitization from his previous 11-year role as CEO of iArchives, Inc. and Founder and CEO of its customer-facing website Footnote.com, which was sold to Ancestry.com in 2010.As VP Product, alongside MyHeritage’s strong product team, Roger Bell will focus on building next-generation community infrastructure and tools for the crowdsourcing of historical record production. This massive community-based initiative will involve assistance and participation from the millions of users of MyHeritage in the deciphering of handwriting and the keying in of information from digitized historical records. During the four years he spent at Footnote.com as Senior VP Product and Development, Roger was instrumental in defining the strategic direction of Footnote.com and in the creation and management of the team. Prior to joining Footnote.com, he was Director of Product Management at Ancestry.com from 2002 until 2006, where he was in charge of the search engine, user experience and community tools. He was also a member of the CEO’s advisory committee.“After a year of evaluating potential new ventures in the industry, MyHeritage emerged as the clear front-runner”, said the newly appointed Chief Content Officer at MyHeritage and father of five, Russ Wilding. “Enjoying phenomenal growth as the most social player in the family history industry, MyHeritage is poised to become the de-facto site for families, emulating what Facebook is to friends and LinkedIn is to professionals. With a talented and multi-national team, state-of-the art products and stellar investors, MyHeritage has all the ingredients to succeed. I am thrilled to join MyHeritage and look forward to a tremendous ride over the coming years.”“I strongly resonate with the core vision of MyHeritage: helping families across the world stay connected, by creating the best experience to discover and share their heritage. MyHeritage is pushing industry boundaries by bringing family history to a worldwide audience in 38 languages. I look forward to playing a pivotal role in driving this forward with my desire to help keep meaningful family stories alive for generations to come, and my passion for delivering value to customers."With more than 62 million registered users and 22 million family trees, MyHeritage has become the trusted home on the web for families wishing to explore their family history, share memories and stay connected.About MyHeritageMyHeritage is the most popular family network on the web. On MyHeritage, millions of families around the world enjoy having a private and free place to explore their history and share special family memories. Pioneers in making family history a collaborative experience for all the family, MyHeritage empowers its users with a unique mix of innovative social tools and a massive library of historical content. The site is available in 38 languages. So far more than 62 million people have signed up to MyHeritage. The company is backed by Accel Partners and Index Ventures, the investors of Facebook and Skype. For more information visit www.myheritage.com.