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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

8000+ Comments and Still Climbing

The recent announcement by the Senior Vice President of Product Management for, Kendall Hulet, entitled "Ancestry to Retire Family Tree Maker Software" has garnered over 8,000 comments and the number is still climbing. The comments run from serious to ridiculous, but I haven't seen that kind of response to anything involving genealogy in a long time, if ever. By no means am I going to read all of the comments. But I thought it would be interesting to examine them to see if there were any valid issues raised.

First of all, someone had to sign the post and I suppose a new "Senior Vice President" gets that job. As I have already pointed out in other posts, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of software products have come and gone over the years. The reaction to the announcement and the number of comments, illustrate the central position has taken in the genealogical community but most of the reactions are from people who apparently do not appreciate the transitory nature of software.

I will choose a few of the comments and add my reaction. I will put the comments in italics and I will certainly not attach any identifying comments or include any names.

Comment: What software will replace Family Tree Maker?

The answer to this question is obvious. There are dozens of competing products out there in the market. Any one of which could be a candidate for the commentator to use. Family Tree Maker has been the only desktop software product that could synchronize with an online family tree but that feature is relatively new and did not always work well. Time will tell which of the many possible programs will benefit, if any, from Family Tree Maker's demise.

Some of the comments show that the people who are commenting didn't even know how the software worked.

Comment: I want my $40 back.

Right. This is not likely to happen. Of course the commentator did not mention how long he or she owned the program. You might want to read the license agreement you clicked on and agreed to when you purchased the program. I might also mention that there is a notice posted presently on the Family Tree Maker program website advising purchasers that the program will no longer be offered after December 31, 2015. It is possible that could offer a very limited credit for recent purchasers, but I would guess that their attorneys are telling them they don't have to do that at all. This is one of the risks you take when you buy any software. The people who purchased the program got what they paid for. There were not guarantees that would continue to sell the program or any program.

Comment: I am so deeply sadden by this news, if it turns out to be true, I will no longer use Ancestry for ANYTHING, I have worked for 25 years on my history, and PAID ancestry ALOT of money over the years, we BEG you not to do this.

This is just plain silly. Why would the fate of the desktop software have anything to do with the online program? A threat of retaliation is really pointless. has certainly considered that there may be some loss of business caused by the decision and decided to go ahead with the cut anyway.

Comment: Okay, no more Family Tree Maker. So how do you propose we copy our trees off your website – no website is 100% infallible – and keep that copy ourselves?

There are a large number of comments that fall into this category. My only comment is that all these people should have thought of that possibility long before now. I currently operate as if every program I use will sometime sooner or later, disappear.

Comment: Very disappointed to learn this, although it isn’t a surprise. I get the cloud thing and why many vendors believe that is where the future lies and that desktop software is declining. Maybe, but this decision is made for purely commercial reasons and shows no respect for your users or the loyalty and information they have given you. If you wish to have a purely transactional/monetary relationship with your users, so be it but you reap what you sow.

I actually like this comment. It points out several of the real issues that have long existed in the online genealogical community. The software market as a whole is changing. The decision by is only one small indication of the challenge all software companies are facing; competition from equally as useful online programs. Presently, Adobe has only cloud-based software. You do not buy the software, you rent it in the Creative Cloud. Microsoft is also moving towards a completely cloud-based system of software sales. already sells online software in the form of its website, it is not a leap to discontinue its separate desktop-based software.

Comment: Does this mean I have to pay an Ancestry membership every year for the rest of my life in order to access the information I have given Ancestry for the last 15 years ? Your response please.

This is very similar to the comments I have already mentioned. Actually, the answer to this question is covered in the Terms and Conditions of the website.  You might want to read or re-read these carefully. The answer to this question is clearly covered by the provisions online.

By this point, the comments are getting very repetitious. It is interesting how many comments include a reference to another program. Why did the users choose Family Tree Maker in the first place?

Comment: Is this anything other than a scheme to force me to pay a steady stream of money to you to access my own records and information? Do you now consider yourselves so established and powerful that you can hold my records ransom? I do not see how the consumer benefits from this.

I do not think comments like this are even rational. is giving present users a year to make up their minds and make other arrangements. The program does not stop working at the end of the year. I have always maintained more than one software program for my data, for just this reason and many others. 

Well, whether you blame it all on the Millennials, global warming or the seasons, it really doesn't matter. The reality of software is that it is transitory and you need to recognize that fact and make arrangements for the contingency that your data may be orphaned. 

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