June 2, 2006 4:00 AM PDT
Here come the 'Family 2.0' sites
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Kraus said Jotspot stumbled on the idea for Family Site after many people were using its business-designed wiki technology for social tasks, like keeping track of birthdays and sharing calendars.
"We followed our noses based on what people were doing with JotSpot," he said. "But wikis aren't the easiest technology to understand, so we've tried to obscure any wiki-ness about it" for Family Site.
People can set up a secure family site within minutes. And Jotspot offers features like voting tools, and interactive family maps that illustrate genealogy and allow members to explore the big picture of their family's generations.
These Web sites offer services meant to facilitate family networking:
Myheritage.com is a free facial recognition site offering photos and genealogy launching this month.
Famundo is a combination free and pay site coming this summer that offers calendar sharing, birthday reminders and vacation planning.
Jotspot is a free site in beta that offers genealogy maps, voting, and sharing of photos and recipes.
Amiglia is a combination free and pay site in beta that offers photo sharing, dynamic family trees and kid photo games.
Ourstory is a free site in beta that creates timelines with life experiences, photos and video.
Zamily is a free site that launched in May offering all things social networking for the family.
Families.com is a free site that launched in 2005 offering an advice and blog community for parents.
Famoodle is a free site that debuted in May offering photo and event sharing, family networking and news.
Cingo is a free beta site offering private and shared calendars, to-do lists, news and movies.
Familyroutes is a free beta site that offers family blogging and photo sharing.
Minti is a free beta site that offers a Wikipedia-style collection of parenting advice.
David Smith, a resident of Norfolk, Va., and the oldest of 20 grandchildren living around the country, said he and his grandfather had been talking about setting up a family site so everyone could communicate better. That's when he discovered Jotspot's Family Site, which launched last month.
"We have a diverse family as far as their computer experiences and usage, so we needed something simple enough for everyone to still participate in," Smith wrote in an e-mail. He added that beyond simplicity, the site delivered more than expected, such as the ability to chart a family tree and to share family recipes.
"This helps break down the walls of distance and makes our individual families feel more a part of each other," he said.
Many of these Family 2.0 sites were started by families who wanted this kind of technology for themselves.
Husband and wife team Paul and Milena Berry started Amiglia, a photo-sharing and family tree site. Privately funded, it launched a public beta in late February, but the Berries plan to introduce a new version this summer. They say Amiglia has already drawn about 100,000 readers.
"Our focus has been anti-WebVan--low cost of operations. We've managed to build Amiglia and develop it for very little," Berry said.
Certainly there's a question of money. Just like with wikis--or collaborative open-source platforms like Wikipedia--many wonder how all of the sites will turn a profit. For now, many are trying to attract enough members so they can eventually pull in advertising dollars, or so they can charge for premium services. But one of the sites can reach a critical mass, profits could remain elusive.
"How the market will make money, and for whom, is a big question right now," said Peter Kim, senior analyst at Forrester Research.
Jotspot, for example, makes money by selling technology subscriptions to businesses. But Family Site is free for consumers. Amiglia.com plans to make money by selling annual subscriptions for better storage. It's free to store 1GB of photos and videos on the site, but access to 100GB of storage costs about $50 a year.
Famundo, based in Pacific Palisades, Calif., is a family social networking site that will launch its first application next week, for organizations like schools. After that, it plans to introduce, in July, a subscription-based service for families, said co-founder Richard Kuhlenschmidt.
As for the family meme on the Web, Berry believes that good ideas float around in the ether and smart people pick up on them at the same time.
"We hope that our strategy of low-cost operations but powerful development cycles will allow us to out-survive them all," Berry said. "We really hope the whole category does burst out in the next six to nine months, but that will be left to be seen."
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