Over time the GEDCOM format was introduced to facilitate the export / import of family tree data between computers, and more recently several companies began offering the ability to create a family tree online and share it with others.
Genealogists have an unquenchable thirst for data (names, dates, places), and Ancestry was quick to capitalize on this, providing access to historical records and the ability to link those records to a family tree. They have certainly been the market leaders, especially in the North American market.
But recently the big game changer has been the introduction of autosomal DNA testing, introduced by 23andMe in 2007. But 23andMe is not run by genealogists, focussing instead on ethnicity and health indicators, while providing some family history assistance.
Family Tree DNA is run by a genealogist and in 2010 added autosomal DNA testing to their existing suite of Y-DNA and Mitochondrial-DNA tests, providing the opportunity to have additional testing undertaken without having to submit a new DNA sample.
Ancestry saw the opportunity to add DNA to their product offering in 2012, and in 2016 they were joined by My Heritage and Living DNA.
The current offerings of the major players in the Family History / DNA testing arena is shown in the chart below -
|Comparison of DNA / Family History Companies|
On the other hand, Ancestry has the least useful tools (without an ongoing subscription to other Ancestry services), is one of the more expensive tests, yet after only 6 years has the largest database of autosomal DNA tests.
As indicated in a previous post, I think that My Heritage is the company to watch going forward. My Heritage is led by a genealogist, they are the only major player to still offer family tree software for the home computer, and their database of autosomal DNA tests has gone from 0 to 1.2 million in just 2 years. They are also not resting on their laurels, but rapidly introducing features that genealogists want, something lacking from the other leading DNA testing companies over the past 12 months.
There is perhaps some opportunity for consolidation in the industry. One obvious alignment would be Living DNA and Brightsolid - both are UK companies, they have complementary product offerings, but over time will not able to compete, unless they each broaden their product offering.
Perhaps My Heritage will absorb Family Tree DNA, adding FTDNA's tools to their autosomal offering, but also bringing Y-DNA and Mt-DNA into the mainstream.
By 2020 I see a very different family history / DNA industry than we have in 2018, and as I have pointed out, the early entrants will not necessarily be the survivors.