Almost a year after the 23andMe “new experience” was promised “shortly” and then subsequently promised by 2015 year end, it’s finally here. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s September of 2016. I could have gestated a baby in less time. However, let’s take a look at the new experience process and features. I’m going to record each step in this new experience since I’ve finally transitioned.
Unfortunately, the new experience began with the 23andMe system either being very slow or not working at all, so I’ve pieced this together from several attempts over a couple of weeks. You’d think for as much as the new test costs, $199, twice that of their competitors and their own old test, they could at least have a reasonable system response time. If that happens as fast as the New Experience, it will be another year. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I saw this screen.
22andMe, you should be embarrassed. Really!
The “New 23andMe”
I thought the day would never arrive, but I did finally receive this e-mail:
Before we start reviewing the process and features, I want to mention that I did find an old to new feature converter, of sorts, provided by 23andMe. It’s not terribly useful, but it might be worth reviewing.
When you can get on and stay on the 23andMe system, you will see the following:
The system did not default to “me,” but to another one of the kits I manage. The next screen was to select primary profile.
My birth date was required. This is bothersome to me. It was never required before, and frankly, it’s none of their business. I answered it truthfully, only because I was afraid it would be part of a security question someplace down the line.
The next screen is shown below asking about your DNA Relatives Preferences. Apparently your old preferences don’t port to the new experience, at least not in total.
Here’s the infamous open sharing question that is supposed to replace all of the asking for permission to communicate and then asking for permission to share DNA segments. I say “supposed to,” because there is still a non-trivial amount of confusion surrounding options, as you’ll see shortly, but if you’re going to particulate in 23andMe for genealogy, do be sure to answer “yes.”
Here is what 23andMe has to say about the new open sharing option.
Next, you can review your profile and verify, add to or change your information.
I personally think that displaying birth year is a potential security issue.
Next, 23andMe prompts you to compete a Health Profile.
The Health Profile started with a question marital status, which is again, none of their business. You can tell that their focus has really shifted to gathering information about you at every opportunity.
I’m not interested in providing them with any additional information they can then sell, so I’m not answering these questions.
You can opt instead to go to the home page, which is your new main account page, shown below.
You can see your account status information and the information available to you. All of the old functions have been redesigned, renamed or obsoleted. Figuring out which is which, and where, is like a scavenger hunt combined with a snipe hunt.
Ok, now you’re ready to begin looking around the new 23andMe site. I have a feeling that their earliest testers were some of the last to be converted, so if you’re already doing all of this, apologies. However, maybe you’ll learn something from my experiences or maybe you have something to add from your own!
Ancestry aka Ethnicity
Let’s start with Ancestry and the 3 reports 23andMe is showing. As a genealogist, I’m interested in the genealogy aspect of the 23andMe reports.
These are what we generally refer to as the ethnicity reports.
Let’s look first at Ancestry Composition
Where did the ethnicity display mapped onto my chromosome go? Aha, it’s under Scientific Details – not what I would expect under that tab, but here it is.
These colors are very difficult to distinguish from one another.
The bar above the browser shifts from Speculative to Conservative.
If you have a parent in the system, there used to be a “split view” where you could see your DNA “ancestry” as compared to that parent. That functionality is still there and is called “Inheritance View.”
I found the older “view” much easier to see and discern between the coloration. Here’s an example provided by 23andMe of the old versus the new.
Ok, let’s see if I can find my matches on this new system. Hmm, looking under tools, I see DNA Relatives, so I’ll click there. This used to be the Family Inheritance Advanced functionality.
I get to watch a tutorial first.
Looks like the new matching limit is 2000, a welcome increase. But why a match limit at all? Neither Family Tree DNA nor Ancestry have a match limit.
And of course the chromosome browser comparison. Interesting, they tell you THAT it’s available, but they don’t show you where to find this functionality. You’ll see that this becomes important later on.
Even though I’ve already opted into open sharing, I have to opt in again here and click on “View DNA Relatives.”
One thing that really bothers me is that after I clicked on “View DNA Relatives” as opposed to “I do not want to participate,” I could not go back or otherwise change that selection. I tried the settings option, by clicking on the profile name, and it appears that there is no option to rescind this permission.
Here is the list of my DNA Relatives. If you’re comparing this to a previous list, all of the information is missing on this page that was visible before, like haplogroups, genealogy surnames, etc., which made it easy to see at a glance.
There is however, a color coded sharing “dot” but with no legend, so I have NO IDEA who is sharing and who isn’t – or exactly what that means. Furthermore, I’m not colorblind, but the dot is so small (and I have 27 inch monitors) that I can’t tell if the dots are blue, green or some blue and some green – or maybe they are bluegreen.
After the fact, I stumbled on to the legend in the “sort by” box, but after reviewing the results, the legend makes no sense when seeing the sharing options and my cousins.
Let’s take a look.
So, the sharing legend is as follows:
- Purple – open sharing
- Blue/green – sharing
- Yellow – Pending
- Grey – not sharing
Let’s take a look at matches.
Blue Dot Match
According to the legend, a blue dot means sharing.
In order to see additional information, I click on my matches’ profile. Let’s start with my cousin Cheryl who has a blue dot. I was sharing with Cheryl before the transition.
I can see my overlapping DNA with Cheryl, I can see her haplogroup and ethnicity, but at the bottom of the page, I cannot see any relatives in common because Cheryl has not participated in Open Sharing, according to the bottom of the screen shot below – although the blue/green dot indicates sharing, according to the legend. So does that mean we were sharing before (we were), but she has not clicked on open sharing since? And if so, what affect does that have? Which features and options are available under which kinds of old and new sharing combinations? If Cheryl was sharing entirely with me before, which she was, why isn’t that sharing permission coming over into the new experience? Why does she have to “reauthorize” sharing, if she has already given permission to share with me. I’m confused, and let me say right here, that this question was never resolved.
On the right hand side of the page is a place to type a message and send to my match.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, whatever your perspective, my closest matches are people I know well and was sharing with before. This does make it much easier to do comparisons between the old and new experiences.
Let’s check another blue dot cousin.
Blue Dot Match 2
The next cousin’s information that I checked invited me to take a look at his tree. Now, that’s interesting because I didn’t think that 23andMe had trees anymore, so I clicked on this link.
Aha, I can see his tree, but the message above the tree says this:
“As of May 1, 2015, the 23andMe Family Tree is view-only, and you are no longer able to edit or update your tree. Your tree will remain available in this format in your account. To edit or download your tree, import your tree data to MyHeritage.”
Of course, any tree with more than 250 people is not free at MyHeritage.
The match to this cousin says that he shows 103 surnames, but there is no matching surname feature to help me narrow down our matching surnames.
There should be no difference between this cousin’s sharing status and the first cousin, because they are both blue, and we were sharing before the transition, but I can’t see his “Relatives in Common” either.
So far, this is very discouraging, because I can’t do or see what I could before with the same people who have previously authorized sharing. I know, in one case, that the person is no longer actively involved in genealogy and that means that I’ve lost functionality because they can’t or won’t “reauthorize” sharing. Why should they need to?
Let’s move on.
Grey Dot Match
My third cousin has a grey dot and he is not participating in open sharing, so I can’t see his ancestry report, which I’m presuming here are my chromosome matches with him, or the Relatives in Common. Ironically, he had a profile message that says, “Just interested in learning more about my heritage and family history…”
Clearly he doesn’t understand the sharing options either.
Yellow Dot Match
Let’s try a cousin with a yellow sharing dot, which means pending, although I’m not sure exactly what is pending, where, and with whom.
Ok, this says that she is not sharing, in the top left corner, but that she has sent me a request to share Ancestry Reports. I’m open sharing, so why do I need to approve a request to share ancestry reports, and where do I do that?
23andMe does, however, show me our chromosome matches AND our relatives in common, even though we are supposedly “not sharing,” so I have no idea at all what else I would see if we were sharing. In this case, what, exactly does “not sharing” mean and what else would I see by sharing? Bizarre.
I notice that she has send me a message. Messages show in the right hand margin. That’s a nice feature, but still not as nice as the ability to e-mail someone directly.
Purple Dot Match
Last, let’s try a cousin with the purple open sharing dot.
Well, this is really confusing, because it says that they are not sharing, but again, I can see our chromosome matches. That looks like sharing to me! I clearly don’t understand what “not sharing” means. It’s pretty much clear as mud.
I see a message at the bottom for me to request to share Ancestry Reports with her. However, I’m open sharing and since she has a purple dot, supposedly, so is she.
23andMe has really made a mess of “sharing,” both in terms of implementation, it appears, and assuredly in terms of explanation. There is not one category of “sharing,” including when both people are open sharing in the new system, or when both people have previously authorized sharing in the old system, where I can see every category in the new system.
Chromosome Browser 5 Person Comparison
I spent a lot of time hunting for the ability to compare the 5 people in the chromosome browser, although minute by minute, I was quickly reaching the “I don’t care” point.
Under the DNA Relatives Tutorial, it clearly says you CAN compare up to 5 relatives, and this page says you can too, but where and how? 23andMe omitted a rather critical piece of information, it seems.
Please note that the above screen is displayed in Windows 10 using Internet Explorer, and if you scroll right, you can see more of the second column, but that’s all.
I finally found the Chromosome Browser that allows a comparison of up to 5 people, shown below. However, the function does not work correctly under Windows 10 with Internet Explorer. I switched to Edge and I could then see the compare option. Believe it or not, it’s the same screen as above, but it doesn’t work correctly under Windows 10/Internet Explorer.
Half Versus Fully Identical Segments
Another feature that appears to have gone missing in the “New Experience” is the ability to see half versus fully identical segments.
Half siblings will have NO fully identical segments, because while they both inherited DNA from their common parent, the other parent was different, so no segments that they have should match at the same address on both chromosomes, meaning the chromosome they received from their mother and the chromosome they received from their father.
On the other hand, full siblings will have a non-trivial amount of fully identical segments, and this comparison was the easiest way to unquestionably tell a half from a full sibling. The previous version showed you segments that were half identical and fully identical, color coded. The new version does not and only reports half identical segments.
When comparing my V3 test to my V4 test, 23andMe indicates that I am a “twin” to myself, so all of my segments should be fully identical when compared to myself, but looking at the comparison, only the half identical segments are reported now.
Here’s an example (below) at GedMatch of the half versus full functionality. The screen shot below shows my Ancestry V1 kit compared to my FTDNA kit. You can see by the legend that the green bar indicates a full match and the yellow bar indicates a half match. On chromosomes 1 and 2, which is all that I’ve shown, you can see the tiny sliver of yellow segments where one kit or the other doesn’t read the same address, so at that location, there is a mismatch of some sort. At every “normal” location, I match myself fully because I’m my own “identical twin” as far as the system is concerned, and I share both parents DNA fully when compared to myself, so a “full match.”
Furthermore, at 23andMe can you view the DNA comparison results in a table, but you can’t download them yet to a spreadsheet, although 23andMe indicates that this functionality is coming. However, it used to work.
Downloading Aggregate Data
At the bottom of the DNA Relatives page, I found the Download Aggregate Data button. The “Save As” did not work correctly under Windows 10/Internet Explorer, but I was able to open the file, then save it.
Share and Compare
I get to watch another tutorial. The Share and Compare function seems to be primarily for people who have immediate family who have tested, such as parents, grandparents or siblings.
The sharing and comparing all seems to be health except for Ancestry which is ethnicity. At the bottom, you can scroll through your matches and click on one to compare, and you’ll see much the same information as in the DNA Relatives section. If they are sharing health information, you’ll see more, such as traits.
Let’s see what else 23andMe has to offer.
On the Tools toolbar, I selected “All Tools.” We haven’t checked out “Family Tree” yet, so let’s do that. I didn’t think 23andMe had tree functionality anymore. Maybe this is a welcome surprise!
The Family Tree link takes you directly to MyHeritage. So no surprise, at least not a good one. Too bad.
Previous Health Reports
Because I tested prior to the 23andMe run-in with the FDA, my previous health reports are archived in the “Reports Archive.” I must say that the new traits are, for the most part, simply cocktail party conversation as compared to what we received before, and for half the price of current testing.
V3 testers do not receive the “Carrier Status” report, and this is the only test that is offered today that is actually medical in nature.
I would strongly suggest that anyone who actually wants health information test at either Ancestry.com for $99 or Family Tree DNA for $79 and then upload their results file to Promethease for $5. You’ll get a lot more than the very abbreviated 23andMe V4 information that costs $199.
Notice 23andMe doesn’t call the current product(s) health reports, but “wellness reports.” I think this is borderline deceptive except perhaps for Carrier Status.
Interestingly enough, both the Carrier Status and Traits reports under V4 require you to take an ethnicity survey before they show you your results, as does the Traits report under V3.
However, ethnicity is one of the things they are supposed to be telling you – in fact that’s one of the primary reasons people take these tests. So why do you have to tell them?
Download your Raw Data
Do download your raw data. You can upload it to GedMatch, to Promethease or depending on when you tested (after V2 and before V4, in November 2013) you can upload the file to Family Tree DNA for $39 in lieu of the $79 Family Finder test. The raw data download option is now under “Tools” on the toolbar.
You have to click on “I Understand” that you might discover sensitive health information about yourself or a family member.
On the first page below where you see the title “Your Raw Data,” click on the blue download button.
I encourage you to download your data while you are on the system, because it can be much, MUCH more difficult later, as I documented in this article.
Summary – Thumbs Down!!!!
As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing at 23andMe anymore for genealogists, especially when compared to the other testing companies, Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, who have both improved their offerings over the past several months.
23andMe provides fewer tools than they did previously to help genealogists identify their ancestors. As the other companies are making strides going forward, 23andMe is moving backwards.
23andMe doesn’t even provide anything as basic and simple as showing common surnames or a tree, both provided by Family Tree DNA and Ancestry. The new 23andMe interface is miserable and confusing, at best – for example – “sharing” which obviously doesn’t really mean sharing. The new system is certainly not intuitive or written with a focus on genealogy, and their system times out horribly, outright fails and doesn’t work correctly with Internet Explorer on Windows 10. Many of the previous features used by genealogists have been obsoleted in this new version. Other than that, it’s wonderful (tongue firmly in cheek.)
As far as I’m concerned, genealogy testing at 23andMe is nothing more than a lure for 23andMe to obtain your DNA and answers to personal questions that are none of their business in order to utilize both for their own financial purposes.
Genealogists pulled 23andMe through the knothole by recommending them for testing when the FDA stopped 23andMe’s health testing. However, 23andMe, instead of enhancing their product for the genealogy market, has removed functionality, such as trees, Countries of Ancestry and full versus half identical segment identification – in essence stabbing genealogists in the back.
Both Family Tree DNA with their many tools and Ancestry, even without a chromosome browser, are both better choices. If it’s ethnicity testing you’re looking for, which is 23andMe’s strong point for genealogy, utilize either of the other vendors plus the many ethnicity (admixture) options at GedMatch.
The only person I would recommend 23andMe to now would be an adoptee looking for a very close match who did not find what they were looking for by testing with Family Tree DNA or Ancestry. In other words, I would only recommend 23andMe as a distant third and only in a pinch. For the normal genealogist, the other two vendors’ data bases and tools have become so large and robust that there just isn’t any reason to test at 23andMe.
I will continue to periodically check the 23andMe site, not for genealogy, but because I believe my father had additional children and I still have hopes of finding them or their children. I wish that 23andMe had implemented an option for notification of “immediate or close family” matches, but then again, they would have to be focused on genealogy in order to do that.
I have written one more article comparing the 23andMe V3 versus the V4 test matching and ethnicity, which holds some real surprises, but aside from publishing that article and an occasional check for my father’s possible offspring, I’m done with 23andMe, completely, entirely, finit, kaput, forever. I didn’t even bother to integrate my match file again in my DNA Master Spreadsheet. Downloading data with no corresponding ability to contact the tester (aside from the 23andMe message system on a website not functioning property), with an extremely low response rate, no trees and not even matching surnames isn’t fun, it’s simply frustrating.
23andMe is now far more work than pleasure and I’m simply done with them. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve had 3 years now to get their act together since the FDA issue…and they haven’t. The “new experience” has gotten worse, not better. The only positive aspect of the new experience is the new limit of 2000 matches, compared to no limit at the other vendors, open sharing, although there is still confusion surrounding that, and the fact that multiple profiles are now managed separately – thankfully. The other vendors have never been this unnecessarily complex relative to open sharing or multiple accounts, so they don’t have a corresponding mess to unravel.
There is a great irony here, because with 23andMe being the first vendor in the autosomal marketspace that was commercially viable could have owned the show, but they’ve blown it, over and over again. And they just blew it one last time.
I give the 23andMe “new experience” a big thumbs down.
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