"Geni is free" bait and switch

Started by Kenneth Nixon Wilson on Saturday, November 12, 2011


Showing all 8 posts
11/12/2011 at 10:09 AM

So I joined this great "FREE" service and spent a lot of time building my 400+ member family tree. Now Geni suddenly says I have to pay for a membership since my tree is over 100 people?


I quit. I'm not using Geni again until this changes.

(P.S. I might consider a lifetime membership -- given that it has other features such as duplicate merging and unlimited media -- but not for $400. Not happening.)

Oh, Geni, we hardly knew ye.

11/12/2011 at 11:29 AM

Kenneth, I'm sorry to hear that's how you're feeling.

We've had several threads on this recently, and the best advice any of us can give is tocome either ask Santa for membership, save up, or ask your local library to join the Geni Public Access program, which allows patrons to use Geni Pro for free in the library.

It's worth noting that the Geni Terms of Service, like those for all websites, always said that conditions could change at any time. That doesn't make it feel any better, but it does give us all a good reminder that good things never remain free forever. I think people jumping ship and going to free sites are unfortunately going to go through this same experience eventually at the others. That's why, at least for me, it makes sense to stay put and find a way to budget it. I do hope you'll be able to stay as well.

11/12/2011 at 11:36 AM

What would you consider a reasonable lifetime membership fee, Kenneth?

I can understand your frustration. Your points about the good aspects of Geni are excellent.

I personally pay for both Ancestry and Geni annually and since I spend a huge amount of time on Geni and my time benefits hundreds of family members from all branches of my husband and my families, I feel it's worth the amount I pay. Ironically I pay for Ancestry but don't really keep my family tree on it up to date. I use if for its American centric records. I also donate to Jewish Gen annually to help keep it running and get enormous amount of value out of it for its records focused on Jewish genealogy, as well as for the great special interest groups and projects.

In my view, what you pay should reflect the amount of usage you and your non-paying extended family get out of the product. Geni is cheap considering my usage.

11/14/2011 at 1:13 PM

Ashley and Hatte,
Thank you both for your thoughtful responses.

Yes, the terms and conditions were clear in their lawyerly carve-out. Yes, I get it that if Geni's expenses climb and ad revenue doesn't pay, then they have to do "something."

I'm just really pissed off (sorry, but there's no better description) at how this happened. I never got a notice saying, "We're so sorry but we're going to start charging you." I never got an offer saying, "Hey, you've been a loyal user, so we're going to cut you a break on the cost." Nothing. Just suddenly, when I go to do a little maintenance, I find I can no longer add anyone to my tree. BAD FORM!

So now I have a family tree with nearly 500 people in it, having done all that work... and I'm stuck. What's a boy to do?

What would I think is reasonable for a casual user? How about $100 lifetime fee? I think that's fair for a "grandfathered in" fee.

11/14/2011 at 8:10 PM

No, no need to apologize -- you're entitled to be upset.

In my experience, lifetime accounts on any website tend to be a good bit above the standard annual cost. This is because once the lifetime account is purchased, you're obviously not going to keep contributing financially to the site as years go on, so you end up saving a lot over time while the company's costs continue to rise. For example, I have a permanent account on a blogging website that I purchased for $150 in 2003. Had I not bought it and instead kept paying a monthly rate since then, the site would have brought in well over $1,500 from me by now. The only reason they had priced it so low in 2003 was that they needed an immediate cash infusion; they've since lifted the charge to $350 for a lifetime account.

So for the businesses themselves, lifetime accounts usually aren't something they want to price all that low, because they want more people to choose monthly payments. For that reason, I don't think $100 for a lifetime account, even as an established user, would be all that practical for Geni. But I do agree that some type of incentive for long-time users might be a nice gesture at this time.

Perhaps something Geni could consider would be Thanksgiving/Christmas sales on accounts for long-time users. If someone has had an account for more than a year, maybe they can get 15% off a year's subscription during a holiday sale, or something like that. Or, maybe existing customers can get a discounted rate on gift subscriptions, which would be doubly beneficial for the site and therefore perhaps even more appealing. Would discounts like that (or something else you could propose) be appealing?

11/15/2011 at 5:35 AM

What I'm more likely to do is pay for one month, add the people I need to add, and then cancel. Or maybe just not use it any more at all.

I respect the work you guys (curators) do, and I'm glad you enjoy it. I enjoy it too, but I don't have enough time to devote to it, to justify a full, paid membership. I'm a casual user. Most of the time, I go many months without touching it at all. Paying monthly fees would be a waste of my money. Paying $400 for a lifetime membership is a huge (potential) waste -- who knows if Geni will be around next year??

Is it possible to export all the data I painstakingly put into Geni and save it for future use?

Private User
11/15/2011 at 11:07 AM

Kenneth- Yes. Do Family>Share Your Tree>GEDCOM export…. When you get the email that it is finished, download it to your PC.

But, you want to be sure your download/backup is good so don’t stop there. Download the free Family Tree Builder (Google it) and install it on your PC. Then use your recently downloaded GEDCOM.ged file to restore your tree to that program running on the PC.

A successful restore accomplishes two things: (1) Confirms that the GEDCOM backup was good, and (2) downloads all photos, etc to your PC. (The GEDCOM backup does NOT include photos, etc., only a link to those photos on the Geni servers. Family Tree Builder downloads them as part of restore process.)

I did that recently with my tree and it worked pretty well. Good Luck!

12/23/2011 at 6:48 PM

Mr. Fisher, thanks for your help! Sorry I didn't reply sooner, just saw this note.

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