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The differences

On Sunday, The Legal Genealogist set out to test the new DNA interface at Geni.com, and ran into a snag: trying to understand just how Geni fit into the MyHeritage corporate model.

The more I tried to unravel it using the help at the MyHeritage and Geni websites, the more confused I got.

So I invited the folks at MyHeritage and at Geni to explain the two to me, and to us all.

Here’s the first part of that explanation.

MH

What are the differences between Geni and MyHeritage?

Overview

“MyHeritage was founded in Israel in 2003.

“Geni was founded in California in 2007.

“In November 2012, MyHeritage acquired Geni and since then Geni is a fully-owned subsidiary of MyHeritage.

“Geni is developed and maintained separately from MyHeritage, and the Geni team reports to the executive team of MyHeritage.”

Comparison of MyHeritage and Geni

“Both services allow users to build their family tree, explore and preserve their family history and share it with their family members.

“Both services are global and support more than 40 languages.

“Geni is available on Geni.com.

“MyHeritage is available on MyHeritage.com (in English) and on more than 30 other domains in other languages (e.g. myheritage.de in German, myheritage.fr in French, and so on).

“MyHeritage is the larger among the two services.

“MyHeritage currently has approximately 83.2 million registered users. Geni currently has approximately 10.6 million registered users, of which 1.8 million are also on MyHeritage. Together they have 92 million unique registered users.

“MyHeritage currently has more than 2 billion profiles and 5 billion additional historical records.

“Geni currently has more than 160 million profiles, and no historical records.

“MyHeritage provides a Website, mobile app and desktop app (Family Tree Builder) that work together.

“Geni provides a Website and does not provide mobile and desktop apps.

“MyHeritage includes a search engine for historical records, called SuperSearch.

“Geni does not include a search engine for historical records.

“Geni has a team of more than 200 volunteer curators who help Geni users and help curate and improve the quality of the World Family Tree.

“MyHeritage doesn’t have curators.”

Different Approaches

“MyHeritage and Geni are kept separate because they follow two different approaches.

“Geni’s mission is to create a single family tree connecting all the people in the world. Geni calls it the World Family Tree. This is a collaborative effort. On Geni, users do not own independent trees; they manage profiles in the World Family Tree. Technically, a new tree on Geni begins as an independent tree but quite quickly matches are found between that tree and the World Family Tree, and once duplicate profiles are merged, the tree becomes part of the World Family Tree. When a tree is part of the World Family Tree, it means that a relationship path is available between any profile in that tree and the more than 100 million profiles in the World Family Tree.

“MyHeritage takes a different approach, it is a huge collection of more than 30 million private trees each owned by a single owner – the person who started the tree. Trees on MyHeritage remain separate and are never merged. On Geni, any user can modify any public profile, and on MyHeritage only the tree owner (and specific people that he/she invites) can modify any information in a tree.

“MyHeritage allows users to import a GEDCOM, creating a separate private tree.

“On Geni, GEDCOM import is deliberately not allowed, to prevent duplication, so new users on Geni need to re-build their tree on Geni, person by person. Very quickly, however, most people find that part of their tree is already on Geni and what they do is add only the missing pieces.

“Geni’s approach has some unique advantages. Geni’s World Family Tree has almost no duplication, which is the cause of many problems in genealogy. This creates, over time, a very high quality tree in which research is leveraged and is not duplicated. Geni allows extreme collaboration, where anyone can edit anything, thus if people spot a mistake they can go ahead and simply fix it, making Geni better every day. However, some users find Geni unsuitable for their genealogy and research approach, as they get upset when others modify a portion of the tree that they entered or they consider “theirs”. Some of these modifications could be beneficial and some could be considered harmful, just like multiple people can edit an entry on Wikipedia (with the help of curators), sometimes without agreement, but often this process converges until most people are satisfied with the result.

“If you have a tree on MyHeritage, other people, who may be strangers or relatives, cannot modify your tree.

“Geni allows you to find your relationship to thousands of famous people – celebrities, scientists, kings and queens, and to other Geni users, thanks to the World Family Tree. It shows how everyone is connected. This is not possible on MyHeritage, where relationships can only be shown inside one’s private tree. The World Family Tree currently covers 104 million profiles out of the Geni’s 162 million profiles, and it is considered the world’s largest collaborative family tree – it has almost no duplicates, and any duplicates added are quickly found and merged by Geni’s users and curators. Search for Thomas Alva Edison on Geni and you will find exactly one profile showing you his entire family, whereas on any other family tree website, including MyHeritage, you will find dozens of trees that include him, some better than others, but no single tree with the best of the best information, curated, as Geni provides. On the other hand, trees on MyHeritage provide their owner with more control as strangers cannot modify them.

“The different approaches of the two websites is the reason why MyHeritage didn’t merge Geni and MyHeritage into a single service, but kept them separate. Which approach is better? Each user can decide for himself/herself and use the service that he/she prefers.”

(Tomorrow: the DNA interface with MyHeritage and Geni — and the subscription costs.)

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