According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, users of the family-tree-based social networking site Geni will soon be able to share their genealogy activities with their “friends” on Facebook. The new initiative, dubbed Facebook Connect, will let Facebook members tie their online profiles and activity feeds with their accounts on Geni. This would potentially lead to Facebook activity feed updates such as “Dean Richardson added new ancestor data to his tree on Geni”, for example. Similarly, when logging into Geni, users might be able to access their Facebook friends’ family trees, depending on their friends’ privacy settings.
For Facebook, allowing its members to bring their friends with them to other popular web sites offers the promise of enhanced advertising revenue. That might work in the following manner. You visit a travel site such as TripAdvisor.com and login using your Facebook ID. You view ads on those sites, click on the ads and spend money with the ads’ sponsors. TripAdvisor receives ad revenue from your clicks, and a portion of that revenue is shared with Facebook. Multiply that scenario by Facebook’s hundreds of millions of users, and you can see why the idea is an attractive one both to Facebook and its partners.
The impact of the partnership for a site like Geni, which famously lacks a robust revenue model, is less clear. Does Geni’s participation in Facebook Connect mean we’ll start to see banner advertising next to our family trees and profile pages? Or will Geni instead monetize its users in a more indirect fashion, perhaps by sending them to pay-oriented sites via Facebook? Perhaps Geni simply views its participation in Facebook Connect as a way to attract more users, leaving the monetization strategy still to be determined.
Whatever the business-oriented implications of this initiative, it’s exciting to see Geni executing successfully on its objectives of making it easy and fun for everyone — even the “Facebook Generation” — to learn about and preserve their family history.