This post is a response to Ancestry Insider's post from this morning: Mailbox Monday: Required Reading for FamilySearch. You may want to read that first.
I generally have a battle in my mind about whether it is appropriate to speak like this about FamilySearch. I sometimes sense an attitude with some involved with FamilySearch that the organization is the genealogical hand of God and cannot be wrong. It is more perception than reality. I actually support FamilySearch in its religious role as the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I also feel that it is important that employees of FamilySearch are honest among each other about what the public really expects--and are not getting.
As Ancestry Insider mentioned, FamilySearch has many good employees who are working in the direction of fixing these issues. Sometimes things move slowly there... and that feels like an understatement.
To understand why FamilySearch is so far behind in tree technology, it is important to understand the real priorities and resources of FamilySearch. As a non-profit, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch runs on the premise that all genealogy work is to be done to the end of taking those names of deceased ancestors to temples where ordinances such as baptisms for the dead can be accomplished in proxy as a religious benefit to ones self and ones ancestors. In making temple work submissions easier, FamilySearch has come leaps and bounds with both nFS and Family Tree. These programs provided the first time that this preparatory phase could be done at home--with no use of special Family History Center software. FamilySearch had met their goal of improving the ease at which members of their sponsor could take names to the temple.
Before I continue, let me set out a few "facts." Ancestry.com is a for-profit company that was recently valued at 1.6 billion USD. Their mission is to make money, which motivates meeting the needs of the user. I am not suggesting that they are greedy people without your genealogy at heart. Simply, I ask you to ask: "What are FamilySearch's resources?" And here, I mean: How much money does FamilySearch have to put into making the world's best Family Tree? I don't know, but I think it is less than 1.6 billion. They use thousands of volunteers to provide customer support, hundreds to digitize the historic records they put up each week, hundreds of thousands to index their records, etc. Because of being a non-profit, using volunteers is the only way they have the capacity to get so much done. It is also an organizational decision. As a church sponsored unit, FamilySearch would logically want to give people the good feeling that comes from being a volunteer.
Don't get me wrong, FamilySearch does pay people. I believe they pay all their programmers and engineers. Of course, they have thousands less of those than they have of support staff. Each time they pay anyone to do anything it requires approval of the organization as a church sponsored unit--with the purpose of getting people to the temple. It is hard to shell millions of tithing dollars and donations into the pockets of programmers and engineers.
On a positive note, I have spoken with, or heard comments from many of the employees at FamilySearch who have the same goals for the system that we do. They want it to be a good experience. One thing I often hear is that one project pushes out another. That is a resource problem. For example, at RootsTech 2012, Grant Echols said that FamilySearch Linking would probably be released sometime after the 1940 Census. When I was an intern with FamilySearch so many people seemed focused on the 1940 census. Other projects received less attention until it was over. The same thing happens for all projects. Since 2011 or earlier, FamilySearch employees in top engineering positions have been talking about wanting to link photos to Family Tree. FamilySearch Photos has just recently become a closed beta, open to members of the sponsor organization. The FamilySearch Indexing mobile app released at RootsTech 2012 was pulled offline in December and put on indefinite hold due to this same lack of resources. There appear to be too few programers and engineers to do the work that we want to see done. It isn't that the employees lack our vision as much as the fact that they must prioritize to a smaller amount of projects.
Anyone who is a follower of FamilySearch will realize that as a whole, their website offers a staggering amount of resources. Much has been done in the past year--just not in every area.
Another example as per your desire to let FamilySearch download sources and media to your computer software like Ancestry.com already allows: http://www.gedcomx.org/
Like I said, FamilySearch is aware of many of our needs and has concepts designed to work toward a solution. The GEDCOMX concept wants to create a new GEDCOM that will make transfer of media objects, sources, etc easy. After a couple of years they still are having trouble doing anything really significant with the community. FamilySearch has been criticized for their lack of official position with the FHISO for example. There is an insightful article from last year on the GEDCOMX blog that talks about it.
So, what do I think the future will bring? Who knows? I have the utmost faith in the concepts that FamilySearch employees have. The turn around is unbearably slow, but at the same time, FamilySearch adds new value to their website and worldwide network every day. I don't think I will ever stop loving FamilySearch, and I don't think that I will ever stop wishing they would hurry it up.