Let's call it "Obituary 2.0."
Footnote introduced a new service this afternoon at the prestigious TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco. The new service is called “Footnote Pages.”
The TechCrunch50 2008 Conference is a leading platform where early-stage companies show their services based purely on merit, without regard to their own financial resources. This annual conference is one of the leading places to display the latest products and services from a company. What makes this so special is that you cannot buy your way onto that stage, where millions are watching the broadcast. In fact, the appearance at TechCrunch50 is free. However, your products are allowed there only if you first convince a panel of judges that your product is worthwhile and unique. The selection process is tough: this year, more than 900 companies applied, but only 50 were selected. Footnote was one of the 50.
The TechCrunch50 conference was broadcast live via streaming video on the web, and I had a chance to watch Footnote CEO Russ Wilding's presentation as he was delivering it 3,000 miles away.
In his introduction, Russ said that the company's new service is somewhat like "Facebook for the deceased." Footnote Pages are living memorial pages for deceased individuals. The company has already created eighty million pages – one page for each person listed in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) – and they are available now. Of course, all of this is available free of charge.
While Russ was still making his presentation, I went to www.Footnote.com and found the pages for my father, mother, son, and one grandmother. Each page starts off as a " shell" with minimal information: name, date of birth, date and place of death, and little more. I or anyone else who was acquainted with these people can add photos, words, or even multimedia files to any memorial page. Each person's page can also be linked to events or other people. For instance, I could link my father's memorial page to my mother's and then link both of them to my maternal grandmother's memorial page. I can also link in aunts, uncles, or any other deceased family members. I can even link them to digitized newspaper images or other content that I upload or to content that is already available on Footnote.com. I can write as much text as I wish. Other people can also contribute remembrances and other information.
The primary purpose of these memorial pages is to create perspectives into the lives of the people memorialized here, thereby celebrating each person's life. New data is solicited, but the memorial pages also can be linked to any of the 42 million historical documents already available on Footnote.com. This includes a wealth of World War II photographs and reports, along with Viet Nam War information.
All images can be annotated, both the photos already on Footnote.com as well as new photographs uploaded by users. For instance, a group photograph of a family reunion or a baseball team or a military aircraft crew can have one or more individuals singled out and identified by name.
Names and other Information added will be searchable by Google and other search engines. Anyone who ever searches for the individual will be able to find the memorial page and learn more about that person’s life. I think this is a great way to memorialize the life of a loved one.
The presentation at TechCrunch50 seemed to go well. A panel of judges reviewed each of the chosen presentations as they were given. Because of time constraints, Russ Wilding focused only on the new service being added. The judges commented that the service needs to have integration with genealogy data and a number of other things. Actually, Footnote already has those things, but those details were not covered in the limited time available.
Here are some of the comments I heard from those judges:
Jeff Wiener: "Interesting technology and functionality." Jeff believes it is interesting functionality for both social networking sites and genealogy sites.
Don Dodge: "Another amazing web site." He remarked that Footnote Pages contains elements of LinkedIn, Facebook, and genealogy sites.
Sean Parker remarked, "This strikes me as an information discovery resource. Similar services exist, but not to the degree of this.'
Loïc Le Muir had a negative viewpoint and questioned the privacy issues. He said, "I wouldn't like for my family to see this." With a bit of a grin, he also stated, "You will have very low customer service requests from these deceased individuals."
I'll add one more comment: This is SSDI on steroids.
Other sites have the SSDI database. However, in comparison, you could say that this version is an interactive SSDI. In addition to the SSDI, users can search the Footnote content to add more information and details about their ancestors’ lives.
If you would like to learn more about Footnote Pages, go to http://www.footnote.com.
Here is the press release issued by Footnote this afternoon immediately after Russ Wilding's presentation at TechCrunch50:
Footnote.com Takes Social Networking into the Past
Footnote.com launches Footnote Pages at TechCrunch50
San Francisco -- September 10, 2008. Losing a loved one can result in a range of emotions, from the grief and sorrow to comfort, which often comes from reminiscing stories and memories with family and friends. The challenge arises when there is no single place where all of these stories can easily come together to be shared, enriched and preserved.
Now at Footnote.com, anyone can find or create Footnote Pages where users connect and share stories, photos, and information about the people important to them.
To kick-off the new Footnote Pages, Footnote.com today released over 80 million of these pages created from data from the Social Security Death Index. Most visitors will find existing pages about several deceased friends and family members already on the site.
Footnote.com was selected from over 1,000 applicants to launch Footnote Pages at this year’s TechCrunch50 held in San Francisco. Russ Wilding, CEO of Footnote, demonstrated Footnote Pages to an audience of over 1,500 investors, bloggers, and major media outlets.
“We encourage people to upload their personal shoeboxes of photos and documents to Footnote.com,” explains Wilding. “Now with Footnote Pages, friends and family can come together to share stories and memories about the people they care about.”
Described as “Facebook for the Deceased,” these pages feature a photo gallery, an interactive timeline and map, and other tools that bring people together to create a more colorful and rich picture of the past. “Social networking is not only for the younger generations any more,” explains Wilding. “We are seeing Baby Boomers contribute and connect online in increasing numbers. Footnote Pages are an easy way for this audience to interact with each other and learn things they would not otherwise know about deceased friends and family.”
Beyond profiling people, Footnote pages can also be used to document and discuss historical events or places, including the Vietnam War, the Assassination of JFK, and the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.
Unlike other social networking sites, Footnote.com provides content that enables users to tell and share stories from the past. Through its partnership with the National Archives, Footnote.com has digitized over 43 million documents, including historical newspapers, military records, photos and more. Footnote.com adds about 2 million new records to the site every month.
Visit Footnote.com to learn more about Footnote Pages and get a new perspective on the lives of your own friends and family who have passed away.
Footnote.com is a history website where real history might just surprise you. Footnote.com features millions of searchable original documents, providing users with an unaltered view of the events, places, and people that shaped the American nation and the world. At Footnote.com, all are invited to come share, discuss, and collaborate on their discoveries with friends, family, and colleagues. For more information, visit www.footnote.com.
Founded in 2007 by leading technology blog TechCrunch and entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, the TechCrunch50 conference provides a platform for early-stage, and frequently unfunded, companies to launch for the first time to the technology industry’s most influential venture capitalists, corporations, angel investors, fellow entrepreneurs, and the international media. Companies are selected to participate exclusively on merit. TechCrunch50 is supported by corporate sponsors Google, Microsoft, MySpace, and Yahoo!, as well as venture capital firms including Sequoia Capital http://www.sequoiacap.com/, Mayfield Fund http://www.mayfield.com, Clearstone Venture Partners http://www.clearstone.com, Charles River Ventures http://www.crv.com, Founders Fund and Fenwick & West http://www.fenwick.com.