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Geni, Inc.
Type Private start-up
Founded June 2006
Headquarters Los Angeles, California, USA
Key people David O. Sacks, founder and CEO
Alan Braverman, founder and CTO
Industry Genealogy, Social networking services
Revenue freemium
Website is a genealogy-related social networking website[1] launched in beta mode on January 16, 2007 by Web 2.0 company Geni, Inc.[2] Over 70 million profiles were created on Geni[3] by over two million users as of September 30, 2008.[4] Geni is also the parent company of enterprise messaging service Yammer.[5]



The Founders Fund, a private venture capital firm, invested "more than $1 million”.[6]

Charles River Ventures, a private venture capital firm, has also invested US$10 million dollars.[7]

Website features

File:Genipage.jpg website

At the website users enter names and email addresses of their parents, siblings, and other relatives, as well as profiles with various fields of biographical information about themselves and their relatives. From there users may graphically manipulate sections of their connections network to create a complete personal family tree.[6]

The service uses the contact information to invite additional members to join, and builds a comprehensive social network database from the information collectively entered by members. For now users may only see information belonging to themselves and to people in their immediate network who have given them permission.[8]

New features and enhancements get added to Geni regularly (approximately every 1-2 month), rarely based on feedback and requests from users on a Geni Suggestion Forum which uses a separate registration, but very often such features are innovative, which other genealogical sites do not have.

Family Tree Awards

Members of each family are ranked by the number of contributions they make to the family tree and are given awards within the family tree itself. Contributions categories include Number of Profiles Added, Number of Invitations Made, Photos Uploaded, Videos Uploaded etc. The top 13 people in each category receive awards. This feature urges users to generate more contact and to compete each other.

Discussion Forum

Each family tree features a Family Discussion forum where messages can be posted and responses made. It can be used as such a digest for family news.


Each person who has linked to their family tree via their email address can elect to be notified about various activities on the tree, such as when new people are added, if any pictures are uploaded, when someone posts a message on the discussion forum, or someone has a birthday etc. Notification frequency options include none, instant, daily and weekly.


Users can import their family history into Geni using the GEDCOM format[9]. But these feature has a restriction of 150,000 profiles at a time. Users can also export a GEDCOM representation of their family tree from Geni. Free accounts cannot export in-law trees.[10]

Merging Trees / The Big Tree

Around August 2008, Geni facilitated the ability to merge family trees where they overlapped via common ancestors or living relatives. Individual privacy is maintained by settings that allow tree members beyond a selectable distance of relationship to only see limited information about a person such as their name and relationship to them.

The rate at which these extended trees grow tends to increase as the trees become larger. Some extended trees or "forests" have snowballed. One in particular has become significantly larger than any other. The growth and size of this tree is currently being charted by a Geni member [1]. As of January 27, 2009 it contained 7.7 million profiles and is growing at the rate of approximately 2 million profiles per month. On July 11 it surpassed 20 million profiles and on August 16th it crossed 23 million profiles. It is colloquially referred to by many Geni genealogists monitoring this phenomena as The Big Tree.


Reduction of services

On February 14, 2008, announced that users ability to view the tree they are in would be restricted to themselves, their spouse/partner, and the blood relatives of themselves and their spouse/partner. In effect, after encouraging users to build a tree, took away the ability to view the data they themselves had often contributed.

On February 5, 2009, Geni, again citing privacy as a concern, reduced the default Family Group from 5th cousins to 3rd cousins. Many people experienced an immediate loss in the size of their family tree that they could still see. This most recent change has been met by much user discontent expressed on the Geni webforum at [11]. The very premise of Geni's commitment to showing "Everyone's Related" having been called into question. After an uproar from users on Geni's forum, around February 21, Geni restored viewing capability to include 4th cousins.

No localization

In 2008 Geni launched a campaign on a special wiki-site, which made possible for users to translate the original interface into languages other than English, but soon when almost all the translations were completed Geni conductors refused to implement these translations to the site because of the license problems. Many users thought that the developers were just afraid of increasing of the popularity of Geni which cannot be compensated by their revenues.

And still, as of the end of 2009, nothing changed and Geni is still available only in English. Luckily, users can use such google toolbar or google translate extensions for their browsers, which can translate site content on-the-fly.

Revenue model

Geni offers a premium service, known as the Geni Pro Account, for US$4.99 per month (payable upfront as an annual payment of US$59.40), paid by credit card. Premium members are known as Geni Pros and have the Geni Pro Badge displayed in their profile, have a priority support service, and are able to export their forest (that is, their tree and also trees connected to it) as GEDCOM file (up to a limit of 100,000 individuals).[12]

The company also plans to make money by targeting advertising to users based on the demographic information they provide.[6]

Similar websites and companies

There are similar Family2.0 social networking sites that include genealogy capabilities. These sites include Famiva, Amiglia (defunct), MyHeritage, and[13]

Computer software company The Generations Network, maker of popular software title Family Tree Maker, has operated genealogy sites web portal since 1998 under brands,, and and WebBiographies are free and offers free family trees, though access to original historical records requires a subscription.

Geni is to some extent modeled after social networking site LinkedIn, a popular site for business-related social networking.[6]

After Geni's launch, several (mostly international) companies have appeared trying to copy its product and business model. For example, the German website makes unauthorized usage of the Geni Flash application, and copies the family networking aspect of Geni in its entirety.[14] [15]


  1. Arrington, Michael (2007-01-12). "PayPal, Pulp Fiction and Geni". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2007-01-20. 
  2. " launches venture backed family tree site". 2007-01-16. Retrieved 2007-01-20. 
  3. main page of Geni. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  4. "Interview with David Sacks, Geni and Yammer". 2008-09-30. Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  5. "Yammer Gets Top Prize At Tech Conference". 2008-09-11. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Marshall, Matt (2007-01-16). "Geni aims to build family tree for whole world". Venture Beat. Retrieved 2007-01-20. 
  7. Arrington, Michael (2007-03-05). "$100 Million Valuation For Geni". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2007-03-05. 
  8. Butler, Phil (2007-01-17). "Geni - Links in A Bottle". Retrieved 2007-01-20. 
  9. Eastman, Dick (2008-05-12). "Geni Adds GEDCOM Import". Eastman's_Online_Genealogy_Newsletter. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  10. "GEDCOM". "Export my Forest, including inlaw trees connected to my tree (requires Geni Pro account)" 
  12. "Geni - Geni Pro Account". Geni, Inc.. 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  13. "Social Networking - Family & Genealogy 2.0 Web Sites". 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-04-09. 
  14. " German Geni Clone". 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2007-09-05. 
  15. "Elance bid for". 2007-03-15. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 

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