What is the future for finding the past online? | The Nosey Genealogist's: Help Me With My Family Tree
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What is the future for finding the past online?

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist on October 27th, 2011

I’ve been reading a business tip today. It was all about what big company may wish to gobble up the likes of Ancestry.com in the future.

It began from the premise that family history was big business, with the more of us turning to online resources such as the subscription sites run by Ancestry who have grown their revenue every quarter since they went public on the New York Stock Exchange.

I have always thought of Ancestry as being one of the big players in the genealogical market. But this article, by The Mottley Fool, talks about the possible threat of a larger company than them entering the market. The likes of Facebook, Google, or Microsoft being their assumed predators.

All three of these organisations could take advantage of the massive amounts of information that they have acquired, plus the technological skills of the programmers that they employ to build a more streamlined search website than what is already on offer in the market.

As The Motley Fool points out Facebook has its Timeline feature, which is an indication that they have noticed the potential of our hobby. There is Google, a big player in organising information, to consider as well. Meanwhile, Microsoft have something called Project Greenwich which allows its users to collect together their photos, links, scanned objects, and potentially more information to create chronological timelines about specific events, people, places, or things. It would not take much for them to turn this into an interactive timeline of our family history.

It is suggested that by providing such a timeline that this would encourage people to remain as members of sites like Ancestry for longer and thus defend them against the problem of membership churn. The article  concludes that perhaps these firms will go down the partnership route, or that Microsoft licenses its technology to the likes of Ancestry.

But who knows what will be on offer to us in the future in researching the past online?

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  1. I can’t see Ancestry selling up willingly, more than anything else because it has fairly considerable links with the Mormons. A substantial part of the reason Ancestry exists is as means of advancing the Mormon beliefs on baptism; Google/Facebook/Microsoft would simply not be interested in that aspect of it, so I can’t see a sale.

    Findmypast (as an extension of GRO Scotland) is another matter, though.

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