Writing, Sharing And Protecting Your Life's Story

A new class of startups is emerging that is part blogging, part genealogy and part something unique. They are focused on the very long term – getting and then keeping customers for decades, and encouraging friends and especially family members to join, too. Once they’re hooked, they’ve spent so much time building content that they are very unlikely to ever leave.

The four startups we’re tracking in this space are Our Story, Story Of My Life, dandelife and My Family. And while these sites are not purely genealogy/family tree focused, they overlap extensively with other startups we cover regularly such as Geni and My Heritage which focus first on building out the family tree first and adding content second.

If you are thinking of building out a family site, any of the four will be a suitable choice. Our Story, led by CEO Andy Halliday, has raised $6 million in venture capital. They are focused on your life’s timeline – you add simple (or elaborate) stories and pictures and place them on a timeline, which can then be embedded into another website via a widget, printed in a book or turned into a DVD. Timeline stories can be milestone based (such as when you graduated from college or got married), or question based. An easy way to get started is by answering some of the hundreds of questions the site presents to you. The important thing is to date everything properly so it appears on your life timeline in the right place.

Story Of My Life is a relative newcomer and is still in beta. The company is self funded and has done a lot with very little capital. Of the four it’s my favorite because it defocuses on your life’s timeline and instead encourages you to just create a profile and then write stories about yourself, either in journal (blogging) format or around chapters such as “my college years.” There’s less of a feeling that you aren’t “done” until the entire timeline is filled out. SOML also allows you to upload audio and video files in addition to photos.

Two feature about SOML that are useful – the “vault” is where your media is stored, which can the be pulled into individual stories. They also have top ten lists about each user, which is a quick way to get to know a person. SOML actually has more of a social network feel than the others, too.

SOML still has a few bugs to work through, though, as it moves towards full launch.

My Family is the largest and oldest of the four and affiliated with genealogy giant Ancestry.com. The site had an extensive redesign in 2006. It’s focused on the family before the individual. Even though it’s the largest, it lacks some of the features of the others. No timeline feature like Our Story, for example. It also lacks the blogging/journal features of SOML. If you’re looking for a quick and easy family site to keep everyone up to date on what’s going on, it may be for you, but the family tree approach of Geni and My Heritage is a better way, in my opinion, to keep things organized.

If you are aware of other emerging startups focusing on this space, let us know. We’re keeping an eye on this space.