Open Letter to Ancestry
Ancestry, in their latest round of cuts have decided to retire their flagship desktop application Family Tree Maker (http://buff.ly/1NLDRLi
With so many users still actively using the product and no apparent replacement for all of the beloved features, it seems counter-intuitive, but in truth, Family Tree Maker as a product has been struggling for a while as per the comments at http://buff.ly/1NLDQH6
, so Ancestry may have just decided that it was time to move onto a new chapter. Unfortunately, the poorly constructed blog post does not seem to mention what that new chapter is, hence more than 5000 negative comments in less than 24 hours.
Here is our open letter to Ancestry in response:
We know that that you are the largest for-profit genealogy company in the world and we know it takes a great deal of investment and resources to provide the great services on the scale on which you do.
Over the last couple of years, we have seen you consolidate your offerings and focus on the more profitable areas of your business. We understand that this needs to happen.
But along the way we feel that you have forgotten that you are dealing with people and families. The information that we entrust to you is more than just names and numbers that can be searched with algorithms and sold on for a subscription. It is part of the fabric of each person who uses your product, it is part of an unravelling story that we all play a part in. You have been entrusted with information that can impact us on an emotional level.
Your decision to retire Family Tree Maker has angered many, not because of the poor way in which it was publicised, but because no satisfactory alternative was given from a company that had earned the trust of many over the years. The Ancestry website is not a full replacement of the desktop product and no mention of any replacement application was made that would have re-assured your user base.
Your users will start to get weary if they feel that a product that they have invested their time and energy learning (not to mention money), can be removed with little more than 3 weeks notice. In fact most organisations of your size would have a retirement policy that would let users know the product strategy years in advance.
Of course Family Tree Maker will not disappear, it will just not be updated and after a while it will not be supported. In that time it is hoped that the features that your users require will be added to your website, however, there has been no communication regarding your future plans, so it is natural for your user base to feel that they are being abandoned.
In the end, someone had to make a business decision, but remember that it’s the users who keep your business afloat, treat them with respect by communicating your plans more effectively; work on providing solutions either in-house or with other firms before announcements so that users have a way to transition onto your new platform with minimal impact. Create the necessary API’s or new software before retiring the old software, there are plenty of companies in the genealogy world who would be willing to help given the opportunity.
Your customers have made their views clear on your blog post and deep down you must know that you can do better. The only question that remains is, will you listen?"