I suppose this should really be a post on psychology not genealogy, but I am the one stuck with the brunt of the antagonism against the large online genealogy websites. If I am out and about, teaching classes and helping people with their genealogy, I get an almost constant negative stream of comments about the larger genealogy companies. It would not be so noticeable if it were not so constantly repetitious. The complaints seem to fall into categories, so I will discuss the main categories I detect. Some of the criticism is so contradictory as to be ridiculous, but some of the comments reflect some of my own feelings (maybe I need the psychology also).
Complaints about the inability to "find" what researchers are looking for are the most common. There seems to be an underlying assumption here that because they are big, they should have every record. If the researcher fails to find the specific record they are searching for, it is not their own fault for failing to search properly, but the fault of the website for "not having the record." It never seems to occur to the complainers that the record may be missing or never applied to their ancestor. This common complaint seems to be consistent with a general societal feeling of entitlement. It is as if they feel they have a right to find the record and the failure of the website to instantly provide what they want at that moment is a violation of their right to entitlement. How dare the websites make them think and search further!
This complaint of entitlement blends into a complaint that the websites change too frequently. I still get comments to old blog posts complaining about the demise of the old, old, FamilySearch.org website or the loss of the old search engine used by Ancestry.com. This would seem to come with the demographics of the genealogy community of an older, very conservative group. But the desire to go back to an old search engine or a very limited old website verge on something more than merely being uncomfortable with change. This complaint brings up the next one, complaints about having to learn yet another program.
It is interesting to me how many negative comments I get about change in general and new programs in particular. Every time there is a round of upgrades, I get the same round of comments. I don't have a clear view of what other countries experience in this regard, but our society seems resistant to change in any form. Genealogists seem to look at changes to websites and programs as threats rather than opportunities. It is as if the need to learn is an imposition. These complaints are focused on the large genealogy companies because this is where the researchers see the most changes. They use these programs the most and therefore are most upset when they change. It is as if they blame the large companies for the changes.
Another dimension of the complaints comes from the size of the big companies. This is especially true of FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com. I find that even if genealogists are familiar with findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com, they do not see either as being a prominent or big company. In fact, when I teach about MyHeritage.com for example, those in my class are always very surprised to learn how large and influential this company really is. I got an interesting comment about MyHeritage.com this past week, when one of the class participants asked why they did not have saturation advertising on TV like Ancestry.com if they were so big? It was almost as if the questioner equated advertising with validation.
Then, of course, there are the conspiracists. They think there is a conspiracy around every corner and under every rock. The most common comments I get involve the purchase of one or the other of the large companies. I might say, that this may be one area where anything is possible. I usually get this question about whether Ancestry.com is going to buy FamilySearch.org or the opposite, whether FamilySearch is going to by Ancestry. In that same class this week, I got the question as to whether Ancestry.com was going to buy MyHeritage.com. I am not sure where these types of questions come from, but the endless series of acquisitions by the three commercial companies I am sure contributes to this viewpoint.
Among genealogists who use each of the big websites frequently, there are a whole different class of negative comments. These always seem to revolve around one or more features of the programs. The complainers always seem to want some other feature or do not like some feature or another. Sometimes in begin to feel like the cartoon character Lucy, with her booth saying Psychiatric Help 5 cents, and the sign that the doctor is in.