When I've not been busy the past few weeks trying hopelessly to keep up with Facebook, or doing my first serious batch of "tweeting" at a session of the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference in Chicago, I've been astounded by the latest major entry into the realm of genealogy-oriented social networking: Genealogy Wise.
The easiest way to describe this new, free online service is to refer to it as "Facebook exclusively for genealogists", because it has many of the features of Facebook (profiles, friends, groups, etc.), but built entirely around a community of genealogists. Once genealogists discovered its existence (even prior to its official debut), Genealogy Wise grew its membership quickly, and at the time of this writing, has over 8000 members.
GW (if you don't mind my lazy abbreviation) also has over 2600 groups, with the largest being devoted to German research, Irish research, and the Find A Grave cemetery database site. There is a search facility just for groups, so you can find out if there is already one for your surname, your geographic area of research, your ethnic ancestry, or your favorite genealogy software or podcast. (In case you were wondering, we already have a GW fan site for The Genealogy Guys Podcast, with over 130 members.)
All the standard social networking features are here: the ability to upload photos and videos, to post comments on a wall, to create and participate in discussion threads, to chat in real time with other GW members, and to buy things from WorldVitalRecords.com, the company behind GW.
GW is already a very busy place, with lots going on. I won't be surprised if Facebook loses a bit of its genealogy-related activity to GW, although most of us will be keeping our profiles on Facebook to keep in touch with our non-genealogy friends.