Ancestry is stuck in the past lane

The topic most talked about in the family history / DNA testing world is currently the planned changes to Ancestry DNA, in particular, the elimination of DNA matches in the 6-8 cM range.

Ancestry has identified the primary reason for the purge of these low cM matches is lack of / cost of data storage, any shortage of which is surely due to Ancestry’s success in the autosomal DNA field, which recently passed the 18 million mark.  So the solution should not be to reduce the functionality that users are currently enjoying and want to continue to use, but to find innovative solutions that will benefit users, and that users are perhaps prepared to pay a premium for.

DNA is the future of family history and Ancestry needs to embrace the future, rather than trying to make their money off records subscriptions, more and more of which are becoming freely available at sites such as FamilySearch.

If I was running Ancestry’s marketing department, I would look for alternate ways forward, that could benefit DNA users and Ancestry, such as the following  –

Step 1 (short term solution) – Rather than arbitrarily cutting off users’ matches below 8 cM, add a user setting, where the user can set their preferred minimum cM match level, with a default setting of 10 cM.  The 50% of users who take a DNA test and don’t link it to an expanding family tree on Ancestry (the curious but not committed) will never opt to change the default setting, which will greatly reduce Ancestry’s data storage requirement in the short term, while allowing users who need the smaller match size, and who understand the associated pitfalls, to continue to see those smaller matches.  A win-win solution for Ancestry and users.

Step 2 (longer term solution) – Consider a premium subscription service for Ancestry DNA.  Basic (free) service would continue to provide ethnicity and DNA matches above a preset minimum (e.g. 10cM), much the same as today.  This service would continue to appeal to those only interested in ethnicity and entry level genealogists.  Premium (subscription) service would include the option of smaller match size (6 cM) and add the types of features that are currently provided by GEDmatch and the third party tool sites that recently received cease and desist orders from Ancestry, including chromosome browser, triangulation of DNA matches, etc.  The premium service should not be part of the Ancestry records subscription as most experienced genealogists have already exhausted available records and are using DNA as the tool to extend their research, although subscribers to one service could receive a discount if they take both services.  This premium service would appeal to people who have more than a casual interest in DNA for family history. 

AncestryDNA has the largest user database, and the only reason that users sign up for GEDmatch (a premium service at $10 per month) is that Ancestry does not provide the tools that GEDmatch and other sites make available.  I am not willing to pay $10 per month for GEDmatch given the small database size, but I would certainly pay $10 per month for their tools, if the database was 18,000,000 users, as at Ancestry.

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