I previously mentioned the cancelation of Ancestry’s Family Tree Maker (FTM) software, and also wrote about options for transitioning to other programs for FTM users. One of the things that surprised me was how Ancestry had not seemed to think about the users at all and how they would move on beyond FTM. They had long claimed that FTM was the most popular desktop genealogy software, and yet they’d let this large user base to drift in the wind, so to speak. The right way to have done it would have been to figure out a transition plan, found a buyer for the program, or opened up their APIs to other programs, etc. all before getting out of the desktop software business.
In my original post, I hoped they would come up with solutions in the year between their announcement and the final discontinuation of the product. It seems that now they have. It would have been better to have done this before their announcement, but at least they’ve done it.
Ancestry announced on their blog that they’ve come up with two official transition options for FTM users.
The first solution is that they’ve sold the actual FTM program to Software MacKiev, who had already been producing the Mac version of FTM for several years. Now they will be responsible for both the Mac and Windows version of the program. Software MacKiev is a well-established software developer from the Ukraine, with offices in Boston, MA as well. Software MacKiev is known for producing the current Mac versions of some early software programs like The Print Shop (originally published on the Apple II) and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing (originally on DOS).
The second solution is that they’ve allowed a third-party genealogy software company, RootsMagic, to access the same APIs as FTM. This means that the RootsMagic program will be able to search Ancestry.com, get Ancestry hints, sync data with trees on Ancestry.com, and perhaps most importantly for FTM users, will be able to directly import FTM files instead of needing to export first to a GEDCOM file. While RootMagic does mention syncing with Ancestry, they have specifically left out Ancestry’s trademarked term TreeSync. This makes me wonder if they will be able to sync in the same way that FTM syncs, or if they will need to upload the entire tree each time there is a change.
It remains to be seen if Ancestry plans to offer access to their APIs to other genealogy software companies. In my post on transitioning from FTM, I listed eight different desktop genealogy programs, all that could potentially partner with Ancestry for the same access, with the exception of Family Tree Builder, from MyHeritage. It wouldn’t make sense for Ancestry to work with MyHeritage since it is one of Ancestry’s major competitors in both online trees and more importantly online research. I suspect Ancestry will probably not add new partners this year. They’ve already said RootsMagic will support Ancestry by the end of the year, and I imagine they want to get that working well before adding new partners.
The real question going forward is how two third-party companies are going to move forward with accessing what were previously private Ancestry APIs. Software MacKiev has already worked with these APIs, so they’re ahead of the game. What happens when one company or the other needs a change in the API? or when Ancestry changes something that breaks an API? What about when Ancestry adds a new feature that would be helpful if accessed via the APIs – will Ancestry be adding it to the API? Ideally all three companies (Ancestry, Software MacKiev and Rootsmagic) have some kind of committee in place to handle these issues. If Ancestry expands access to their APIs to more companies, these issues will only become more complex, so I hope they’ve figured out a plan for these issues already.
So thank you Ancestry for coming up with solutions for your FTM users. Yes, it would have been better to do this before your announcement in December, but better late than never.