What’s Up–Or Down–With Rootsweb?

by , under Ancestry.com, RootsWeb

Today, I checked — as I often do — for info on local genealogical group meetings on the Cleveland District Roundtable (CDRT) page on Rootsweb. I found as I have for several recent weeks that the CDRT page on Rootsweb was still “down.” What came up in its place was a “progress report” posted by Ancestry.com which hosts Rootsweb. Here is that report from The Rootsweb Team (note the latest update added a couple days ago):

We have been in the process of improving the site throughout 2017, and as a result of an issue we recently became aware of, we have taken the site offline while we work to resolve it. We take the security of our contributors and our viewers seriously. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but protecting our users’ personal information is our top priority.

Update: January 23, 2018

Great news on the progress of getting RootsWeb back online. Today, we are bringing WorldConnect, one of our most valued features, back online. As we make WorldConnect available, it will initially be in a read only state. You can now search for people and view information as you did in the past; but for now, we cannot accept new uploads or modifications to existing GEDCOM files. We expect to add this additional functionality in the coming weeks.

Also, here are answers to a few questions we’ve heard from the community:

Why is this taking so long? RootsWeb has many terabytes of data uploaded by users across its various features. The site also has hundreds of thousands of lines of code. We have been scanning the data using a variety of tools, and that takes time. We’ve also been examining the code and the underlying systems. Some code is being refurbished, and some will need to be more fully rewritten to add the layers of security needed in this day and age. We know it may be frustrating, but we are committed to returning data to you in a safe manner.

Have you found any other security problems? We haven’t found any other problems, but we want to thoroughly update systems to ensure the safety of your information.

Is Ancestry going to start charging for RootsWeb? Ancestry is not going to start charging for RootsWeb. When functionality returns to the site, you will still be able to view content for free.

I’ve heard not everything is coming back online, is that true? We will be returning WorldConnect and Mailing Lists back to their full functionality. Other features are still being evaluated. In cases where we are unable to bring back previous functionality or content, we will explore ways for people who uploaded data to retrieve it if we don’t feel we can put it back online safely.

Care to share your thoughts with us?

Update: January 9, 2018

We have spent the last few weeks reviewing the functionality on RootsWeb and have created a plan to bring many of your contributions back online over the next few months. As we stated before, our first priority is security, and ensuring that every part of RootsWeb meets our stringent security standards. Our next priority is getting you, the users of RootsWeb and its services, access to your content.

Right now, the best way for us to meet both goals is to begin bringing portions of RootsWeb back online in a read-only state. This means you will have access to content, but you will not be able to load new content in these sections. While this may not be ideal, it is the best way for us to protect RootsWeb users while also providing the ability to use the content you value. This is an interim step while we continue to evaluate the potential for bringing more of the RootsWeb services back online in a more complete manner.

Here’s our current plan:

Hosted Web Sites: Soon we will begin bringing Hosted Web Sites back online. We will start with a few hundred and then add more over time, giving us a chance to scan the content.

Family Trees/WorldConnect: Family Trees or WorldConnect allows you to upload a GEDCOM file and publish it for others to see. It is currently being reviewed by our software engineers and security team and we plan on having a read-only, searchable version up in the next few weeks. The ability to upload new GEDCOM files will be available in the coming months.

Mailing Lists: Mailing Lists have been functioning as normal, but the archives have been unavailable. We plan to make the archives available to you once we have WorldConnect available to you in a readable version.

We will be making decisions about other functionality over time.

We appreciate your patience as we bring the different pieces of RootsWeb back online in a secure manner. You, our contributors and viewers, are what has made RootsWeb the vibrant free genealogy community it is.

The RootsWeb Team

FYI, the above page came up at the following address: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohcuyaho/Projects/index.html

Just to remind myself of the history of Rootsweb, I went to Wikipedia. Here is what the entry on Ancestry.com provided about Rootsweb:

RootsWeb

RootsWeb was acquired by Ancestry in June 2000. RootsWeb is a free genealogy community that uses online forums, mailing lists, and other resources to help people research their family history. Founded in 1993 by Brian Leverich and Karen Isaacson as the Roots Surname List, it is the oldest free online community genealogy research site. Users can upload GEDCOM files of their information for others to search at the WorldConnect portion of the site. Trees uploaded to WorldConnect are searchable at both the RootsWeb and Ancestry websites. RootsWeb provides resources (such as webspace, mailing list, message boards) for the WorldGenWeb project.

On December 20, 2017, a file containing 300,000 RootsWeb user names, passwords, and email addresses was exposed to the internet. The 300,000 records were from RootsWeb surname list service with 55,000 of those records were also Ancestry.com login credentials.

Let’s hope that The Rootsweb Team can get the website back online sooner rather than later. I for one find it quite useful.

 

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