I haven’t really been using Geni much since my review in February. Some things have happened since then. In August, they changed the rules to allow Pro members to merge with any accounts they wanted. They soon added a Plus membership. And now they’ve changed the rules again.
The latest major changes are to limit the number of family members in the free account and to take away the auto-merging for Pro members. After all the immediate backlash about the auto-merging, they waited for months to change it back. I understood why they did it, and even suggested a better solution.
For the record, I suggested an auto-merge for Pro members after a limited time. I’m sure there are plenty of abandoned trees on the site that members might want to merge with, which was probably one reason why they did that. I suggested that after a merge request was ignored for an amount of time, maybe a few weeks, that the Pro member could then merge the trees and the abandoned one wouldn’t quite be so abandoned anymore. That would also prevent someone from auto-merging to an active or semi-active member without confirmation. But alas, they didn’t listen.
I was especially opposed to the auto-merging because right before they initiated it, someone suggested a merge to my tree that wasn’t even close to a match. If he’d done that later and with a Pro account, then I’d have to figure out how to undo it. I know they said it would be like a wiki and reversible, but I don’t think they had that in place right away, if ever.
62 !> 100
Although offered a free Pro membership a couple of times, I’ve never actually been given that upgrade. I didn’t pursue it enough, it seems. So today, on a whim, I logged in again. And what do I find? I’ve exceeded my 100 person limit. I wonder how they figure that.
I did not upload my GEDCOM because they couldn’t read my file properly and took the upload function away by the time I tried again. When I go to my main family page, it shows me 67 people. When I go to my lists and view people added by me, there are only 62. So how does Geni figure that I’ve exceeded my limit of 100 if I’ve only added 62? Because I’ve merged with other trees and there are 225 connected? That is not me exceeding the 100 limit. Their original purpose was to merge everyone, so are they now saying that everyone must have a Pro account because we all exceed our limits if we merge at all?
In addition to the 225 family members I have, Geni is also telling me that I am connected to 60 million. That’s new to me. I don’t remember merging with the borg tree, or anyone else in my family. I know where I can connect to it, but I’ve never entered that data into my tree and I’ve never merged with that part of my family.
Share it or Download it?
Downloading my data is tricky too. I’m not sure if it’s always been this hidden, but why is the download my GEDCOM option under the menu to “share” my tree? That took me too long to find. And for 62, or 225 (or 60 million?) people, the export is pretty slow. In fact, hours later, it’s still pending.
I’ve also got pending merges waiting, except that they’re on profiles I don’t manage. This is not new, but really, why is Geni still bugging me with those?
Geni Owns It
Once you’ve uploaded any information to Geni, they own it. While their terms of service say they don’t own your content, they really do. I can’t even find a way to delete an individual. What if I entered something and later discovered it was wrong? If I try to delete my account, I get only two options: “donate the profiles I manage to the Geni community” or transfer their management to someone else. Apparently, as soon as you merge with a single tree, your data is out of your control.
My conclusion is still pretty much the same as my original review, with some new gripes. This site is clearly for family networking and not for serious genealogy. As soon as you merge, you lose control of your data. If anyone makes a change, no matter how incorrect, it’s not always so easy to find and fix it. They claim not to own my data, but they give me no way to delete it from their server. I didn’t spend my own time and money to give my research away to a company that wants to make money from it. I was never so opposed to the one-big-tree-for-the-whole-world idea, except where a for-profit company uses freely volunteered information to make a profit from it. Not only is the information given freely, but some people pay them to give them information and they still try to make money from it.
While I’m glad I connected to a more distant part of my family through the site, and I’m able to scrape the information from the site slowly (still no download even more hours later), if Geni didn’t exist and the relatives were that interested in the family history, they would have just found my web site. After all, one of that group found my site before Geni ever existed, and plenty others have found it too.