Beyond the easy, flippant answer of yes, of course, the answer is a little harder.  If you’re curious, the question relates to the topic of why we’re building Origins.  After all, there are several well-established players in the genealogy software space.  They have lots of users, lots of money and a big head start on us.

So what makes us stay up late at night and work through weekends building something trying to compete?  Why do we think we have something better to offer?  I think it comes down to three things:

  1. None of them are actually very good pieces of software.  Before you jump to the defense of your favorite program, let me explain a little more.  I’m not saying that they are terrible; just that the software world has changed, a lot, since all of these programs were first written, and none of them have had a real overhaul to take advantage of the many technological innovations that have come along.
  2. Users expect a lot more from software than they did even 5 or 10 years ago.  For the most part, none of our competition had adapted to that fact.  Their user interface, their technology, their functionality is all mired in the past.
  3. Each of them operates within a largely closed ecosystem.  Sure, they reach out to the big three (Ancestry, Family Search, My Heritage) and maybe a few others, but that’s it.  They don’t integrate with much, if anything, else.  Not really, at least.

We are attempting something different.  Modern technology, extremely focused on users and their needs/wants, and promoting an open ecosystem.  Let me explain a litle more about what all of this means:

  1. Modern technology.  Pretty easy here.  Technology moves rapidly and while it is dangerous to be on the bleeding edge, if you stay just a little bit back from that, just a little shy of start of the art, there’s a sweet spot where the user experience is good, stability of the technology is good and things just work.  That’s our target.
  2. User expectations.  Generally, users are much more technologically savvy now than they were even 5 years ago.  Even people who say they aren’t good with computers can find their way through an application more easily than in the past.  Part of this is the users themselves having more exposure to technology, whether it’s their genealogy program, Facebook, their banking site, or some other web site or application.  Part of it is the technology, or rather the focus on user experience that technology takes these days.  5-10 years ago the concept of “user experience design” and caring about “user adoption” was bleeding edge.  Now it’s a core requirement of any application or web site.
  3. Open ecosystem.  This might sound a little scary at first, but hear me out.  Here is our take on it…an open ecosystem is one that does not place artificial boundaries between users, applications and data.  Users are in control and get to decide how, when and where they share, collaborate or interact with their data across multiple interfaces and applications.  That’s a mouthful so let me break it down a little further as it applies to Origins:
    1. Your primary genealogy application should not prevent you from using some other application to do some aspect of your research.  It should, instead, support you in that endeavor as much as possible – even if the applications are from different vendors.
    2. Your data is yours – it should not be locked away, inaccessible to anything except the program that stores it.  Conversely, an application should not force you to share or make your content accessible if you choose not to.
    3. No one software package does everything the best.  Every program is going to have its strengths and weaknesses.  Vendors should seek partnership opportunites with other vendors who can help fill in gaps and strengthen weak spots.  Even as young a company as we are, we’ve already been in partnership discussions with other vendors who provide a niche service or app that can be integrated into Origins to make the user experience better.  Everyone wins that way – users, the third party vendor, and us.

      Our philosophy is a rising tide lifts all boats.  We look for ways to provide the best user experience, regardless of who actually provides the functionality.

Back to the title of this post – yes, we are probably a little bit crazy.  However, I’ll wrap things up with two final thoughts:

  1. By nature, I am somewhat quixotic; I seem to be fond of tilting at windmills.  When there’s a fight worth fighting, the fact that I may be grossly outgunned does not stop me from trying anyway
  2. A speaker at the 2017 Roots Tech conference said something which struck a chord.  I’m paraphrasing, but it went something like this – “shoot for the moon when you’re first starting out; aim high before all of the reasons you ‘can’t do that’ grab hold and start to weigh you down”.

Our goal is to strike a balance between the little bit of madness it takes to pursue an endeavor such as Origins and just enough sanity to deliver successfully.  We’re happy that you’re choosing to take this journey with us.  Here’s to an amazing future unearthing the past!