RootsTech 2014


Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Killer Genealogy App?

You might have noticed that I like to ask questions. In a recent blog post entitled, "The Commercial Realities of Data Standards" Tony Proctor makes a very interesting observation:
A possibility that has occurred in several other industry sectors is where a large, generic software organisation comes out with a killer product - one designed to kill off all the smaller products currently fighting for market share. Sometimes this happens by acquisition-and-enhancement of an existing product and sometimes through completely new development. This is a very real possibility and I guarantee that our industry is being examined already, especially as genealogy and other forms of micro-history become ever more popular.
It is important to understand the context of Tony's statement, but the basic idea that there could be a "killer app" is fascinating especially in the context of my previous observations that most (nearly all) of the existing genealogical database programs were well established (entrenched), well into the higher numbers in their versions, and competing mainly on the basis of feature creep (bloat).

Subsequent discussion of some of my earlier comments suggested that adding features to existing programs was indeed a way to secure existing users of the programs and add additional users. At the same time, some of the basic shortcomings of the existing products, such as a less than effective duplicate merge function, have not been addressed. I have taken the position that the desktop, individual computer model of the genealogical database program is presently competing with an entirely different level of product, those products that are capable of synchronization with one of the large online family tree/database programs. The additional feature added by these programs is the semi-automated ability to search the online database programs for source records pertaining to the individuals in the user's file.

So now we have a new way of adding value to an individual software program, that is a way to do research directly from the program. This feature is also available in three of the large online genealogical database programs:, and  Both and have their own proprietary individual computer-based programs.'s program is Family Tree Maker, currently in version 2014 for Windows systems and Version 2 for the Mac.'s program is Family Tree Builder currently in version 7. Of course, neither of these programs are fully functional without a subscription to the online version of the family tree. But, as I have said several times in the past, the cost of the online subscription is more than compensated by the value of the sources added to your database by either program. has entered the arena of semi-automated data searches with a built-in research records function while at the same time approving third-party access for data synchronization with a local database program. At the time of this post, three programs have been certified for complete access to the Family Tree: Ancestral Quest, RootsMagic and Celebrating My Family Tree. Because of the nature of the data in Family Tree, as opposed to having your own personal family tree in one of the other two programs, synchronization with Family Tree data would not be possible of desirable in the same way as is done by both and You have to understand the difference. When the certified Family Tree programs talk about "synchronization" they mean that the programs can to a two-way exchange of data, not that the entire file is "synchronized."

Do any of these existing products approach the concept of a "killer app?" Or how about a new entrant into the market, Heredis 2014? If a killer app is out there, in my opinion, I haven't seen it yet. But my guess is the same as Tony's someone is already out there answering all the concerns and attempting to create a product that will dominate the market. What will that product look like? That is the basis of another post.

1 comment:

  1. I've been on the receiving end of this possibility in a different market sector James. If it was a "killer app" in the sense of being outstanding, and far ahead of anything else, then it could be a good thing, but this doesn't have to be the case. When one of these large companies decided to address a particular area then they have massive resources, including developers and money but also including worldwide marketing. That product doesn't have to be light-years ahead in its first incarnation because they will just sell it better. I know that smaller organisations, with just one or two visionaries, often produce better products than a committee-driven organisation can, but it won't help. When you factor in synergy with the other products and tools of the big organisation then you cannot win - the smaller company will suffer a withering demise.