I don’t know how long we have to wait for Geni launching its Chinese version, but if you are interested in the genealogy web2.0 service the latest news is that we have a new friend called MyHeritage.com which had its Chinese site launched. Boaz Hecht, the Marketing and Business Development Manager of MyHeritage told me, they are seriously about the Chinese market.

A Quick Overview of MyHeritage

MyHeritage is a Israeli based startup founded in 2005. It has been raised $9 million from Accel and two angel investors. In terms of profiles, MyHeritage is nearly 20 times larger than Geni. Geni states that they have 10 million profiles whereas MyHeritage proclaims 200 million. Thrillingly, MyHeritage also has 20 million registered members. MyHeritage is now available in 15 languages and has become the world’s fastest growing family network.

The Strength of MyHeritage

a. Face Recognition – MyHeritage is one of the first apply Face Recognition technology to personal photos and family history and it really rocks. Using Face Recognition technology, MyHeritage can compare the faces in your photo, with all faces previously known to MyHeritage Face Recognition, through photos and meta-data contributed by yourself and other users. So you can get some very interesting results, e.g. which celebrity looks like you.

b. Meta Search (upgraded around a week ago): This search engine utilizes a peer-to-peer architecture that is seldom seen among search engines, which allows it to search in real time, within 1400 other genealogy databases in all corners of the Internet. This implements “deep database searches” that Google (and certainly Genealogy search engines) does not provide. The results are collected by the site and displayed in an easy to use interface that can assist our users.

c. Family Tree Builder – With an handy offline software, you can download and update your tree with extra features and upload media content.

d. Smart Matching – MyHeritage recently launched a service that helps you find your relatives. Effectively, it searches for users with trees that have overlaps and lets them know. To avoid the privacy issues, MyHeritage only let you contact each other indirectly with anonymous information until/unless both parties agree. So for example, if you upload a tree that has your father, and his date of birth and city of birth, and someone else also has him in their tree (with very complex matching algorithms for similar spelling, dates etc) – you will both be notified.

e. The ambition of being International – Being a web2.0 startup, it is always an encouraging thing to do to be more international. MyHeritage is already available in 15 languages, it is a really a good start and now the question is how to run them locally.

The Weakness of MyHeritage

The user base, the traffic, the features etc, all look brilliant for a 2+ years startup. So what’s the weakness? I only found one from my perspective (expect that MyHeritage.cn is not a friendly domain for Chinese who might hardly spell it), but I think it is a really critical one. Localization does not merely mean a local version.

I have spent some time playing with its Chinese version. The interface seems perfectly translated into Chinese, but I do suggest they get some local users not only from China but from Asia to heavily test the site. I was stuck at the process of registration. I enter my surname in Chinese which is only one Chinese character, but this is not allowed by the system (Update: this bug is fixed). The message says The surname with length of 1 character is not allowed. Please be aware, it is really unusual for a Chinese to have a surname with its length larger than 2 characters, 1-character surname is very very common.

Building a family tree is supposedly a serious and complicate thing to do, but MyHeritage obviously turns it into an interesting and easy Internet activity. I think their chance for entering Asian market is there.

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Gang Lu

Dr. Gang Lu - Founder of TechNode. He's a Blogger, a Geek, a PhD and a Speaker, with passion in Tech, Internet and R'N'R.