Sunday, March 11, 2007

The problem with Geni

Geni is a social networking application for genealogy. (From Wikipedia) Genealogy "is the study and tracing of family pedigrees. This involves the collection of the names of relatives, both living and deceased, and establishing the relationships among them based on primary, secondary and/or circumstantial evidence or documentation, thus building up a cohesive family tree".

Specifically, Geni allows you to start filling in your family tree. You can add relatives with their email ID's, and emails are fired off to ask them to join Geni. Once they join, they add more info about themselves, start filling in their relations, and so on, and in some time you have a map of your extended family with all the information that the family members have chosen to disclose.

Charles River Ventures has invested US$ 10 million in Geni, valuing the company at US$100 mill. But I have my doubts about the viability of this application. These views are also posted as comments in a VentureWoods discussion on Geni.

On the positive side, Geni is a very slick application. You can easily draw up a family tree, and makes it very easy to invite other family members to share their info and start adding relations they know.

But the service has 2 major shortcomings -
The "Getting Laid" feature is not there
The single most important feature that a social networking app should have is that it should help the user to get laid. Even if that doesn't happen, the user should think that it will increase the chances of him/her getting laid.

Thats it. This is the "critical path" feature. If directly (Orkut, Facebook, Myspace) or indirectly (LinkedIn: Better job --> more money --> better potential) this feature is not there, then users won't stick around 1-2 hours a day writing scrap entries, exploring photos and seeing profiles of friends of your friends, and adding more and more unique stuff about themselves to their profiles.

Geni cannot help users get laid. If that happens, it would probably be illegal :-).

Relevance of the application in markets outside the US
Geni applications will be relevant for India only 10-15 years down the line. It makes sense in the US where you completely grow up in nuclear families with very little contact with your grandparents, cousins etc. However, in India, even though many of us would have grown up in a nuclear family in a city, we had very close relationships with grandparents, cousins and other members of the extended family. So the usefulness of “discovering” your relations is not there. Even considering only the US market, I would think a typical user would use his application obsessively for a week or two. After that you start getting irritated with requests from your relatives and stop hanging around.

1 comment:

Hugh Watkins said...

I do not trust those guys

because nowhere on the site is the snail mail address of the office

and the names of the owners

this is either poor governance or dishonest or even money laundering

Web Server: Apache/2.0.52 (Red Hat)

Page Retrieval Time 2.54 seconds

IP address hidden

In most cases,, Inc.
is not the registrant of domain names listed in this database.

Domains by Proxy, Inc.

Registered through:, Inc. (
Domain Name: GENI.COM
.COM Just $8.95*/yr

too bad