Thursday, December 01, 2005

Whose data?

I’ve been thinking about data ownership a lot over the past few days. Specifically, I was looking at possibly joining Ancestry.com to trace my family’s roots. A friend of mine has recently begun his own family tree research on this site using their two-week trial. We started discussing whether or not he was going to subscribe and what features the site has (or lacks). It’s a nice site with many cool features. However, they do not allow me to export my tree data into any format but PDF. I understand that they don’t want me down-loading their database and using it somewhere else. But what about the data I entered? What about the hours I spent researching and entering my past? Ancestry.com is charging me for the use of their extensive resources, which is great, but they are also charging me to access other people’s family trees (and vice versa). Who owns the data: Me or Ancestry.com? Shouldn’t I get to take, at the minimum, the data I entered? The same thing goes for my preferences, ratings, and reviews on Amazon.com.

One possible solution is to use an open source project to host my data and use Ancestry.com, et al, to research. Below are a couple okay looking open source family tree projects:

Update: I would really like to see an open source family tree web application built with ASP.NET and SQL Express.

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