Genealogy Software is Transforming - Thu, 27 Nov 2014
You likely might not have caught the relevance of the two announcements made on Monday and Tuesday that rocked the genealogy software world.
On November 24, MyHeritage announced: Family Historian Genealogy Software Integrates MyHeritage Matching Technologies for Automated Discoveries. And the next day, MyHeritage announced: RootsMagic Adds MyHeritage Matching Technologies for Powerful Automatic Research Capabilities.
These are actually the 2nd and 3rd announcements. Previously on November 13: MyHeritage Bolsters Leadership in the Netherlands with Strategic Partnerships where it first made agreements with the Dutch program Aldfaer, and Coret Genealogie to integrate MyHeritage’s matching technologies.
These three announcements together are a blockbuster. Not one, but three major programs and one online system (Coret Genealogie’s Genealogie Online) are now providing within-the-program ability to access the MyHeritage collection of family trees and historical records using the matching technologies developed by MyHeritage.
Finally it has begun. Desktop genealogy software (still very necessary as the powerful and private way to assemble one’s own genealogy) is now able to take on some of the functionality (matching data) that was previously only possible online. I see the current announcements as just the first step. I expect many more announcements to come, and not necessarily just by MyHeritage.
This is all possible because of MyHeritage’s foresight in its development of a powerful yet simple API that they have made available. An API is an Application Programming Interface that allows programs like Aldfaer, Family Historian, RootsMagic and Behold to access and perform actions against MyHeritage’s data. FamilySearch and Ancestry have APIs as well, and I’ll talk about them in a minute.
I listened to Uri Gonen’s talk at RootsTech 2014 about the MyHeritage API and came away very impressed. More-so, the one thing that differentiates MyHeritage from Ancestry and FamilySearch is their forthright effort to get software developers to work with them.
When I was at RootsTech 2012, I talked to Mark Olsen of MyHeritage and finding out I was a developer, he immediately wanted to work with me and give me access to MyHeritage and their API. But Behold wasn’t ready for that at that time. At RootsTech 2014, Mark Olsen saw me and even remembered me. He asked how Behold was coming along and said as soon as I’m ready for them to give him a call. Last month at Gaenovium, MyHeritage who was the main sponsor and had two representatives at the event, further expressed their interest in getting me to work with them.
By comparison, with FamilySearch, I talked to many of their people. I discussed software ideas and expressed interest in becoming a FamilySearch partner and accessing their data through their API. Basically they had a ho-hum attitude about this. I had to go after them to get in. If I did, fine. If not, then that was probably fine also. They weren’t out pounding on doors actively seeking new products. But they did have people I could talk to if I wanted and information online on how to get started.
Ancestry, meanwhile, was completely invisible and did not seem to take any interest in me whatsoever. Ancestry gives you this friendly page if you are a developer interested in linking to them. Note that the link on the page doesn’t work. Compare that to say, what 23andMe provides to developers who want to access their API. And not incidentally, MyHeritage announced a strategic collaboration with 23andMe on October 21.
So Ancestry has their TreeSync between their desktop program Family Tree Maker and their online family tree databases. Their just released 2014 Service Pack will hopefully fix that often crashing and poorly working feature. They exclusively use their API in Family Tree Maker and are not making that functionality available to third parties. So they think they can do it alone, exactly the opposite view that MyHeritage takes.
What MyHeritage has done with their recent announcement is that they’ve laid down their gloves, and the battle of the APIs has begun. Who will win?
Company A: Who goes out of their way to find and partner with developers.
Company B: Who lets the developers come to them on their own.
Company C: Who tries to do it all on their own.
If there was someone who may benefit, it may be the FHISO people who are trying to come up with a new genealogy data transfer standard to replace GEDCOM. While they are embraced in an intense discussion on the minutiae making up all the data we might ever want to transfer, these companies are doing relevant data transfer right now through their APIs. One or more of these APIs may take over and become the new “standard”, and FHISO would be saved a lot of work.
Okay, so what about Behold. Is Behold being left behind? Well, as soon as I can get my act together and get the next few releases out, I’ll be able to program Behold to take advantage of these APIs and make this within-the-program access to MyHeritage and FamilySearch possible. Ancestry too, if one day under the pressure of the success of MH and FS, they decide to make their API open.
Behold will be able to do a better job in the presentation of this information. Programs like Aldfaer, Family Historian and RootsMagic provide forms-based input with generated reports. They need to display the MyHeritage match information on their input screens, and must be relegated to using little icons or summarized lines. Behold with it’s report-based Everything Report for both input (coming in 2.0) and output will be able to present this data complete and in-place where you need it and where you can do your editing directly and immediately see your results. I’m so excited that I’m now mad I spent this time writing this blog post when I could have been working on Behold to get it there.
I really commend this move by MyHeritage with Aldfaer, Coret Genealogie, Family Historian and RootsMagic. We’ve been waiting for years for something big to happen in the battle between the big three online databases. This is the big one. FamilySearch and Ancestry will take notice and the genealogy community will benefit from the result of this.