Facebook Application Family Tree Debuts New Collaborative Features

Family Tree, a family-oriented Facebook application from New York-based Familybuilder.com, launched an upgrade today that chief executive Ilya Nikolayev tells us this is the latest step in making the company’s genealogical features more collaborative.

“We’ll continue to focus on the social side of things to continue the virality, the growth and numbers, but at the same time we think it’s a good thing to continue investing in the genealogy side of the business,” Nikolayev tells us.

With the new features, users of the app will have more options in building their family trees.

These new features of the Family Tree app, which first hit Facebook in 2007, will center around Facebook Connect and premium content, Nikolayev tells us.  Premium content is set to include different tree themes and colors, more collaborative functionality, different print options, customized family statistics and more integration of the in-app currency, Family Dollars ($10 USD: $100 Family Dollars).

But most importantly, Family Tree users on Facebook can now build their family trees in conjunction with other Facebook users so that a more complete picture of their relations is available to them.  According to Nikolayev, Family Tree incorporated user feedback to the changes in the app, now porting existing tree information so users don’t have to re-enter their family records.

Once this tree is built, users have the ability to zoom in and out of the tree in order to see different parts of their family lineage.  This redesign was done mostly because Nikolayev said the majority of relations added on Facebook were either siblings or cousins, so the traditional model of a family tree – which goes back in time – wasn’t melding well with the social network model.  The zoom feature allows Family Tree users on Facebook to see their family tree as it pertains to their social network connections.

Family Tree currently has more than 7 million monthly active users on Facebook, but also maintains similar apps on Bebo, MySpace, Hi5 and Orkut.  This redesign is part of a larger effort on Familybuilder’s part to integrate more social components into their apps, Nikolayev told us, and more changes to this end are coming in a few weeks.

“We’d really like to tie-in a component that’s more fun, something where you could explore different virtual items and interact with family members in a more fun atmosphere,” he said, noting that Family Tree’s virtual currency, Family Dollars, will be an integral part of these changes. “We’re working on a gaming component within the application that (involves) constructing a virtual representation of the family.”