Facebook is the ideal tool for maintaining family relationships. With simple tools like sharing photos and now HD quality videos, along with ability to communicate, organize communication, and keep everything private to a desired list of people, Facebook makes perfect sense for keeping your family together and learning about your loved ones. Social networks are the perfect environment for families, if done right, and Facebook is pretty close to doing it right.
Paul Allen, founder of Ancestry.com, realized the potential for families on Facebook, and started his own business looking to connect individuals through social networks. When he started, Paul was looking to create a new company around linking individuals, families, and genealogists, and wanted to leverage existing social networking sites to accomplish his purpose. He was taking the knowledge, mistakes, and successes he learned at Ancestry.com and attempting to do it right this time. They started with Facebook and called their App We’re Related, one of the products owned by WorldVitalRecords, Paul’s new company.
When We’re Related launched, they went from zero to a couple million users in a matter of days. Their sysadmin was hired right around that time – talk about being put through the ringer and initiation into the company!
We’re Related simply tries to identify the family members you have in your own social network, and provides options for you to organize that family. They provide a feed, similar to Facebook’s own news feed, containing only your family members. The feed enables you to view photos, status updates, but they take it beyond that. You are given a private wall for just your family members. If you want to see how you are related, or even take it beyond that to learn about your deceased relatives and ancestors, they provide a list of all your relatives family trees, and you can identify yourself as a relative within your friends’ family trees. You can see the birthdays of your relatives, and even opt to send them a virtual gift on their birthday, similar to some of the other calendar and birthday applications on Facebook.
We’re Related’s Success
We’re Related recently announced their 10 millionth user in only under a year. Between those 10 million users, 50 million relationships have been defined. AppData.com ranks We’re Related at number 8 in monthly active users (at 6,228,693 MAU) at the time of this article. We’re Related’s parent company, FamilyLink.com, is now the #10 largest Facebook app development company by monthly active users (FamilyLink also owns “My Will”, “My Family”, and “Family Groups” Apps on Facebook). They have users in 232 countries and all 50 states. They have consistently grown, even as the new Facebook redesign has launched and it seems they have adapted.
Of the relationships defined in their database, they claim “cousin, or cuz, or first cousin, or my cousin” are the most common relationships on Facebook, while there are some interesting relationships such as “lover”, “wifeys”, “4th cousin”, “soul sisters”, “doggy granddog”, and “dog-n-law”. Jason McGowan, the company’s Director of Social Networking, says that FamilyLink.com is well on its way to “graphing the family social graph”. They may just have invented a new term that could catch on here.
Some developers in the developer forums have complained that We’re Related is seeing success because they are taking spammy measures to push their app to users. For instance, users often get requests from family members to “add them to my family tree”, and when users click on the link it just takes them to a page to just invite more friends to use We’re Related. In their early days users would receive unsolicited email from them telling the user about new features, a practice they have since stopped. In order to add a family member you must invite them to the app.
Spammy or not, they do have a feature now where you can opt-in to receive emails, so they are still giving users choice. They are listening, as well, as the app is much less deceptive (whether on purpose or not) than it used to be. Regardless of how spammy We’re Related is or used to be, users don’t seem to mind, since even through the new design they continue to add the application, share it with their friends, and list new family members.
A Tool for All
Facebook has always been a personal tool for managing personal relationships. We’re Related fits that context perfectly, which is why they have been so successful. It will be interesting to watch them adapt, as a simple update from Facebook to enable tracking of family relationships could theoretically significantly affect business – Facebook has made no hint of that happening however. If you have a family, We’re Related is certainly an application you should check out.
(Disclosure: Jesse Stay previously worked with the We’re Related team, but is not currently doing so.)