It seems like everyone is launching a social network these days , especially since the big ones are worth billions of dollars now. It’s getting kind of ridiculous – there are even online social networks that help you launch your own social network.
Amongst all of the noise, a few original ideas still float to the top – and these seem to be niche networks that serve a particular audience in ways that the general-use networks (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) can’t or won’t. I came across one a few months back that is really fantastic: Geni. Geni is built completely around the idea of family networks, and appeals to the genealogist in all of us.
Of course, like any idea for a website it isn’t the idea that counts: it’s the implementation. And in this area Geni is really getting it right. When you first visit Geni you create a simple box for yourself on a family tree simply by entering your name and email address. Then you can build your family tree, adding relatives and inviting them to join the site if you like. The website brings you into the experience very gradually, and it gets addictive fast. Before I knew it I had pulled out the book my grandfather wrote about our family, Tributaries and Rivulets, and started to put in everyone. In less than an hour my tree included 43 people going back 9 generations (picture below, with me in the bottom left of the tree)
You can go deeper by opening up individual profiles and editing them, adding pictures and family stories. If you spent some time on it, you could really make Geni a fantastic shared repository and asset for your family. And with genealogy software compatibility as a priority, it’s clear they plan to serve the serious genealogists and treat your data with respect – though competition from Ancestry.com will be tough if you are really in research mode.
Geni’s thoughtful (and viral) approach is being rewarded, as they just recently celebrated passing the 5 million profile mark. They are getting a lot of impatience for new features (a good sign for a startup), but as long as they continue to implement as well as they have so far, their following will continue to grow.