Friday, February 26, 2016

RootsWeb Update: Still Down and No Known Resolution Date

RootsWeb error messageRootsWeb has now been down for over two days. It went down before 4pm MST on Wednesday, 24 February 2016. I asked Ancestry.com’s spokesperson, Matt Deighton for information and he issued this statement:

Our development and web operations teams are working on the problem and will have it resolved as quickly as possible. We do not currently have an estimated time that this issue will be resolved, but we will update the site as new information becomes public.

The unavailability of RootsWeb may not seem related to the New Ancestry, but in a way it is. While we think of digital information, including systems like websites, lasting forever, in reality they don’t.

  • File formats are replaced. When the software programs that read the files are gone, you’re toast.
  • Software programs becomes obsolete. When the operating systems that run the software programs are gone, you’re toast.
  • Operating systems become obsolete. When the hardware that runs the operating systems is gone, you’re toast.
  • Manufacturers create incompatible hardware and stop making old models. When obsolete hardware dies, you’re toast.

A computer website has to be rejuvenated every decade or less or it will die. That may be one reason why Ancestry produced the New Ancestry. However, there are times that companies transition a website—under the covers—so seamlessly, users don’t know anything has occurred. Ancestry obviously should have done that with New Ancestry and then introduced improvements gradually. (I once programmed a system that made millions of dollars [none of which went into my pocket] because people will pay good money to avoid change. But I digress…)

Since Ancestry.com hasn’t invested any money (visibly, at least), in RootsWeb in very many years, it is now a ticking time bomb. Or rather, it was a ticking time bomb. It has exploded and we wait nervously now to hear how much damage ensued.

46 comments:

  1. The proverbial bird in hand is Ancestry, no matter how much it is derided in the public forum.

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  2. The basic problem is that Ancestry not only doesn't care about Rootsweb, I believe they are trying to kill it by attrition and by purposeful bad manageent. I have yet to find anyone at Ancestry that cares (or knows) anthing about Rootsweb. Yes, Rootsweb has an (Un)Help desk. The SSDI used to be on Rootsweb, but it went away when Ancestry firgured out that that since the "deal" was that Rootsweb was to remain free, Ancestry didn't have to spend money on keeping it running (purchasing the updates). In my opinion, they install their own ringer county administrators who install rules that essentially shut the county boards down. They refuse to fix minor programming errors. Yet several years ago they combined the "clicks" from Rootsweb with ancestry in order for Ancestry to look better.
    I love Rootsweb. It is an excellent entry tool for beginners and provides a great service to those looking for specific county help. However, no blogger I know of cares about Rootsweb either. I'm not surprised this has happened.

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    1. You are confusing US GenWeb with Rootsweb. Rootsweb has family trees, discussion boards (archived now) and hosts free sites.

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  3. Thank heaven for Internet Archive. I have used Rootsweb since 1995. Sorry to see it having such difficulties.

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  4. Is Randy still at Rootsweb? He was the only one who really knew anything about it at all

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    1. Randy Winch? I haven't heard in a long time.

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    2. Brian mentioned his name on FB today implying that Randy was still there.

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  5. How convenient for Ancestry that Rootsweb is having "trouble", now they can kill it off!

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  6. I backed up my GenWeb site on Rootsweb a few days ago in preparation to handing it off to a new co-ordinator. I feel pretty lucky at the moment. This is worrisome as I don't recall in the 15 years I've been on Rootsweb having this happen. Hope they get this going soon.

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  7. ancestry is the new wal-mart.

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  8. ACK! I have a website loaded with extensive transcriptions of Native American records with thousands of names. I hope I don't have to rebuild the website again.

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  9. I have to disagree that this is caused by old formats. I have my personal website housed on the homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com server and literally could take it and move it to a different server and it would run flawlessly (and may have to do so if this keeps up). Yes, the Guestbook feature stopped running late last year and I had to remove it because it wasn't being supported, but HTML is HTML and CSS is CSS and even older versions should run on a basic server platform... Same goes for many of the genealogical and historical society websites that are currently housed there for free (and have been for years). Not to mention mailing lists... If it was just a part of RootsWeb, then that might be a different issue, but this is a domain-wide outage that is not being explained adequately.

    For those of you who have websites, you shouldn't have to rebuild them. You (or whoever maintains your GenWeb or society site) likely built them on your own computer and should have the original copy of the HTML and other files there. All you would need to do is find another service provider and upload the files. Interestingly enough, the servers appear to be completely offline. I can't even FTP to the server to look at the files there.

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    1. Mary K.,

      You're right insofar as "your" website goes, but for the site as a whole, it might be more complex.

      There is a domino effect. As Donworth observed, there was probably a hardware failure. RootsWeb is extremely old so there's a real possibility they can't find equivalent replacement hardware. It might require a hardware upgrade. New hardware might require new device drivers. New device drivers might require an upgrade to the latest version of the operating system and/or the web server software. But if either one is no longer supported, Ancestry may have to migrate to a new operating system or a new web server. The new server software may not be compatible with the authentication software--the one that accepts your password allowing you to manage your HTML and CSS files. That will require a new authentication system. The old authentication software may use a database engine that has long sense gone to mothballs. Ancestry might need to move to a new database engine. The new database engine will almost certainly use incompatible file formats for the database file. That would leave Ancestry in a bit of a bind as they will have permanently lost access to all the usernames and passwords for all the hosted websites. That would spell the end of RootsWeb's hosted websites.

      ---tai

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    2. I get that. I really had less of an issue with the fact that it was down than with the absence of communication. It's nice that today, at least, they've told us it was hardware failure. Seems to me that this could have been communicated from the get-go. With the past few days seeing any number of genealogy venues awash in all kinds of theories of what was happening, a simple note that the hardware had failed and they were working on it and would get us an ECD for restoration when they had it would have stopped a lot of that. Though I doubt it would have stopped ALL of it... ;) I'm just glad to finally know what's going on. In the meantime, I've moved my site to another server. Back up and running! :)

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  10. This is ridiculous and yes, I wonder if Ancestry isn't trying to kill off RW because its not gouging peoples' wallets. I've two family members who pay for Ancestry yet have to pay another, separate fee for Ancestry outside of the US.

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    1. Is the world subscription no longer available? It allows access to all databases through any or their localized Ancestry websites. For example, you can search a German database while logged into Ancestry.com or Ancestry.de.

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  11. This is the problem with renting or building on "land" owned by someone else.

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  12. I hope they let us get our database files from the Obituary Daily Times. We don't have copies for ourselves.

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  13. There also are ongoing problems at Ancestry.com. The Message Boards are having frequent glitches. And that is not even to mention that this thread, begun 23 Feb. 2016, has been locked to prevent further replies. Within this thread, Jim Mosher announced that the Trees are no longer going to be completely indexed. He did not say anything about how Management expects that this will affect AncestryDNA matches.

    And the trees are not operating smoothly.

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  14. Oops, the locked thread is:

    http://boards.ancestry.com/topics.ancestry.ancsite/14608/mb.ashx

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  15. Our DAR Chapter has it's website on Rootsweb because it's free. It's VERY basic HTML, nothing fancy. We can't afford hosting, so I really hope they get this resolved. I'm sure I'm not the only non-profit in this position.

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  16. I doubt this has to do with obsolescence. Probably it's more of an indication that there isn't a lot of redundancy in their infrastructure - servers, disks, network switches, etc. It's only been two days - it could just as easily be that they need to rebuild a server (reinstall it's software) or that they are waiting on the delivery of a replacement network switch. Lower priority services don't get a lot of investment in redundancy so when they fail, you may have a wait before they are restored.

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  17. Good point, donworth. I was starting to worry, but it just may be that, waiting for parts. And/or, they might have rootsweb set up in a broom closet some place in Pakistan, and there may not be much light.

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  18. Ancestry.com forgets that our information has made their website possible

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  19. I've got my website on there, too. Fortunately, I've got all of my pages backed up.

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  20. I just wish they would give us more info about exactly what is going on...I don't use Rootsweb EXCEPT for their mailing lists which I have learned a LOT from.

    If it is a programming problem TELL US...If it was a cyber attack (we've been getting attacked lately on the mailing lists) TELL US...

    Rumors are flying fast and furious as they always will in the total absense of information...

    ANCESTRY just TELL US what the problem is as the rumor mill is fast at work!

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  21. They have updated the message with: Our initial expectation is to have the site back up and running on or around March 15, 2016

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  22. March 15 - more than 2 weeks away!
    Wonder what is going to happen to the backlog of messages.
    I send daily funeral notices for 8 newspapers to a list. They haven't been bouncing, but I have no way of knowing if they are getting through.

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    1. It is to be hoped that folks stopped sending List messages as soon as they had an idea of the scope of the problem. Waiting a few days after the system seems functional would also be a good idea.

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  23. It is a hardware failure. The complete message at rootsweb.com is:

    "We're currently experiencing a temporary website outage due to Rootsweb hardware failure. Rest assured, our development and web operations teams are busy working to securely restore the site as quickly as possible. Our initial expectation is to have the site back up and running on or around March 15, 2016.

    "We apologize for the disruption and thank-you for your patience.
    We will provide other updates here as we have them."

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  24. Thank goodness, an expected date ....

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  25. as of 3/1/2016

    Maintenance Page

    We're currently experiencing a temporary website outage due to Rootsweb hardware failure. Rest assured, our development and web operations teams are busy working to securely restore the site as quickly as possible. Our initial expectation is to have the site back up and running on or around March 15, 2016.
    We apologize for the disruption and thank-you for your patience.
    We will provide other updates here as we have them.

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  26. On many parts of ancestry.com there have been

    We are currently undergoing maintenance, so this widget is temporarily unavailable. It should be functioning shortly.

    some for days!

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  27. Call me a skeptic.

    In 2011, Ancestry's revenue from the US alone was $399.7 million.

    With their assets and technological capabilities, a server can be rebuilt, or built from scratch in less than two weeks.

    I think Ancestry was using this event to gauge the level of outrage, and assess how many of us who use Rootsweb also have Ancestry subscriptions that might not be renewed. I have a multiple reply "incident" email exchange with someone at Ancestry named Kevin about the downtime issue, and I've told him exactly what I plan to do if they can't seem to be able to pedal faster.

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  28. All my websites are now up--however, I can't get into File Manager to edit them. Hopefully they will get that ironed out in the next few days. Also, none of the links on the Rootsweb main page are working.

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    1. My World Connect tree is still down.

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    2. And now this morning, my sites are NOT up. I get a "The connection to the server was reset ......" message.

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  29. I only use rootsweb or fanilysearch. I still believe ancestry research should be free. I understand my tree represents on ancestry.com website. I am not happy. I am not given credit for my reasearch and the fact that some ancestors Are just guesswork and not yet proven are also not acknowlegded. I will never put my tree on ancestry due to my research is available through me for free. If they are going to take rootsweb down for good, I hope they have the courtesy to also remove my tree from ancestry due to I never authorized it to be on there anyway.

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  30. Ok, I see that this has been ongoing for awhile.. I just noticed I could connect with pages on Rootsweb today 11 March 2016....
    Ancestry Status

    When we are aware of a disruption in service, we will update this page in a timely manner with information about the problem.

    Update on Rootsweb site status:

    We're currently experiencing a temporary website outage due to Rootsweb hardware failure. Rest assured, our development and web operations teams are busy working to securely restore the site as quickly as possible. Our initial expectation is to have the site back up and running on or around March 15, 2016.

    We apologize for the disruption and thank you for your patience.

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    Replies
    1. I just noticed I could not connect... was the correct comment.

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  31. My pages are back up but they are old copies and I can't FTP back in to update yet.

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  32. Since Rootsweb is back up I went back to Cyndi's List "Surnames, Fam. Assns, etc. to re-join several surname lists. I could not subscribe via either the digest or list mode.

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  33. Since Rootsweb is back up I went back to Cyndi's List "Surnames, Fam. Assns, etc. to re-join several surname lists. I could not subscribe via either the digest or list mode.

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