On November 18, 2009 FamilySearch introduced FamilySearch Forums to consultants and center directors (volunteers at any of the 4,600+ Family History Centers). Thanks to Renee of Renee's Genealogy Blog for posting the announcement. Click through to read it.
Even though message boards and forums have been around since the early days of the Internet, at the time, I think this was somewhat of a new thing for FamilySearch. The forum web software that was used on FamilySearch was not top-of-the-line by any means. As often happens with discontinued features, there are people who miss the forums. In my view, they never were as good as existing forums on sites like Ancestry.com and RootsWeb. They never did quite catch on, so the community and content value was lower. FamilySearch felt they were not good enough to promote with high visibility and that a better 3rd party format was needed. I believe the forums were never officially taken out of beta.
Since 2009, FamilySearch has started more than 100 research help Facebook pages. These were built in 2011 and 2012. FamilySearch sees a need in the community to provide ways for people to communicate in real-time online. FamilySearch Skype research groups was a short lived project that ran through 2012. Other platforms have been tested internally to find out what methods are most helpful to the community.
The FamilySearch Forums were officially closed on December 31, 2012. Thanks to James Tanner of Genealogy's Star for posting the announcement. Click through to read it.
For my internship with FamilySearch, I actually got to help with the Facebook genealogy research pages. I felt that it was better than the forums because it allowed more social interaction, notification options, a cleaner/brighter look, easier to invite others to get involved etc. One of the biggest downsides of Facebook is that you cannot search the text of wall posts, and that can be important when you are looking for an old question or answer.
FamilySearch Groups has brought together the best of both worlds. Built on the social enterprise platform known as Yammer, FamilySearch Groups feel a lot like using a Facebook wall with the addition of important features like searching all posts.
Update: Sorry for the bad link to FamilySearch Groups. I took it down. You must be added by someone who is already in FamilySearch Groups. FamilySearch has made an official request form for those who want to join. Click here to fill it out.
Although it is in its early infancy, Groups is available to the public. Official invitations are scarce because FamilySearch recognizes that much more should be done before creating large influxes of traffic. If you are into testing new things or social media, you should to join right away. You'll need a new account because it runs on a 3rd party framework called Yammer.
When people see the site for the first time they often wonder how to keep track of posts in the new environment and how it can benefit them. Perhaps that will be the subject of future posts.