Without warning, Geni has introduced a rule that Basic (non-paying) users are restricted to family trees with no more than 100 nodes. My own tree has well over 200 nodes, and the first I knew about this was when the following banner started appearing at the top of my Geni pages: "Your family tree has exceeded the Basic limit of 100 family members. Upgrade to add more people to your tree." This is a scandalous example of lowballing -- luring people in with free offer and then stinging them for cash once they are too committed to withdraw. Actually, many users say that they are intending to withdraw. In my case, I have a vast amount of additional information that I had hoped to add to my tree when I got the time (I have 2,431 people on my offline tree, plus numerous corrections, additions, and mountains of documents following meticulous research), but unless Geni reverses its ill-conceived policy, which has enraged so many of the Basic members on whom it relies for its data, I can't add anything. Can I even correct existing data? Unless someone tells me I can, I dare not try.
Unfortunately, if we are going to enjoy Geni for the foreseeable future, those of us who make use of their incredible database and other features are going to have to help them defray their expenses. In the absence of a worldwide base of millions of active users, the Facebook freebie / advertising model does not appear to be sufficient to pay the bills. I am sure they would welcome all suggestions on how they might monetize their database in such a way that user fees can be reduced.
I have to agree with Adam. A few members of my large family tree are Pro and at the price we pay as Pros annually to create and maintain a large family tree and connect to the Big Tree, the price is reasonable.
What did you pay for your single view private tool on your home computer? Here you get the ability to allow your hundreds or thousands of relatives to view your family tree and you don't have to enter much of your tree because you connect to the Big Tree and find more relatives instantly than you would have if you had researched for several years.
Are your schools, roads, doctors, medicine free? Are your groceries free? Is your gasoline or car free? Is your Internet Service Provider free? NO, the reason is because to run a business, you have to pay operating expenses. To run a technology business you have to pay salaries for good staff and pay for servers to host large databases. Are you suggesting that this should be run by a non-profit and if so, who pays for the non-profit. Show me anything in life that runs on no money.
Andrew, thanks for commenting. If I'm hearing you (and some other users) right, I think the core objection isn't so much that the free model was revised, but rather the /way/ it was revised. It's an objection to the sudden way it was launched and announced, correct?
I've been thinking a lot about this recently, and I'm trying to think of examples where companies announced changes like this in advance and then rolled them out. I can't seem to think of any, but it seems like there's a user expectation that that will happen.
How would you like to see things rolled out in the future? Would you, as a user, feel better if you had advance warning? Or do you think -- as I do -- that that would simply result in a week (or whatever) of intense panic and anger followed by the inevitable change, and would therefore make users even more upset? I don't think Geni can win either way, to be honest.
I see at least two possibilities.
1. (like software companies do usually) - keep existing version users possibilities and options intact, change terms only for new users
2. (like my bank did and other big institutions do) - give forward notice about changing terms year ahead and after changing plan, upgrade existing users to new plan and do not charge them for a year.
Second option here in Geni could be done in following way:
1. Tell us (basic users) about changes 3-6 months ahead
2. After that period, offer free Plus or Pro (at user choice) for 3-6 months
I think many more free users would consider becoming Plus or Pro then.
Of course, both of Arvo's suggestions would be vastly preferable to what was done. I'd venture to forecast that there will be mass defections to other providers. It would have been wiser to have tried a bit harder to make the advertising model work or to have found some other solution. Let's not forget that the product that Geni trades in is information, mined painstakingly from public records and private sources by tireless workers and then uploaded to Geni for free. Geni would be nothing without these hundreds and thousands of hours of unpaid work providing the product that sustains the whole enterprise.
I agree that Arvo has some good ideas here for Geni to perhaps follow in future. I wonder though where all these deserters are going to... are they really sure that :
1. where they are going won't change the terms and conditions at some point in the future just like Geni.
2. are they giving everything that Geni gives. I haven't found anything that really beats Geni. Some sites, I guess complement it but nothing seems to better it in my opinion.
Yes, Geni handled the transformation to a fee-based system rather poorly from a communications standpoint, and I think that they have failed in establishing what they had in mind: a community of paying hard-core genealogy freaks who loved hooking up their trees with living distant relatives who could share in their joy whether those distant relatives were not necessarily fellow genealogy fanatics or not.
Geni has not yet hit on the formula for doing that. The current program discourages the casual users who made the site so much fun. First, once they hook up with you, they instantly jump to 100 profiles and are out of business as far as adding to the tree is concerned. Second, they are unable to accept further merge requests from you or anyone else. These are major failings that have taken much of the fun out of the Geni experience. Yes, I can still communicate with my fellow fanatics, but for the joy of hooking up and doing a little collaborative genealogy with my long-lost cousin Andras in Budapest? Lost, for now at least.
Terry, I think that most basic users won't migrate to other genealogy sites, they are not so interested in pure genealogy. And for many regions people (like us estonians) there's no critical mass of possibly related users on other sites. Here I am related to all my co-workers for example, on other sites I can't found any of them.
I will remain here, but due to the poorly introduced Geni policy changes I'll remain basic user currently. I even considered lifetime subscription, before august month... And one year membership before last changes - but they made all to make me distrust them. Twice.