Having started collecting information about earlier generations in the 1990s the differences in the technology used for storing and sharing data are now great.
This has come about through changes in equipment [hardware] - faster processors, larger storage devices, faster telecoms links, etc - and improvements in the programs [software] available to both manage the hardware and to provide useful applications [apps] for business use and personal entertainment.
Despite twenty years of progress however the apps for handling family history databases have only improved slowly. In fact the number of reliable genealogy apps seems to have declined. Take the Family Tree Maker app. It was the first family history database I used back in the late 1990s. Over the decades it has been changed and tweaked by various owners but with limited effect. Today we use the reliable 2005 edition after having some poor results and outright failures with various newer versions.
With the growth of the Internet and making vast quantities of printed and handwritten records available online a new type of app emerged. One with access via a web browser to database hosted on a web server. In theory this provides some major advantages over the PC-based local database in that multiple users can not just view but also update family records. And the open source nature of the database [SQL] and programming language [PHP] removed the dependence on commercially restricted database formats.
However it is very easy to keep expanding the scope of the family history app and in the process create a very complex piece of software. This is in itself not reason to avoid this approach. But it does require a lot of detailed programming and huge amounts of testing.
For the past few years we have been spending time putting family history information online using the Webtrees app. And in general this has been a success - even though we have never opted to move the master copies of the data online for security reasons. However it does have a complexity issue that needs to be addressed.
The records used to create the Strangways-Towneley online database is a GEDCOM file of 63Mb but the resulting Webtrees database was some 745Mb - due to the number of tables created for functions such as suggesting a place of birth. And when combined with the fact that the next update from a new GEDCOM did not start from empty tables resulted in the ISP’s database size limit being exceeded. Not wishing to swirch to another ISP and not being able to reduce the GEDCOM any further it seems that we have come to the end of the road for using Webtrees for the Strangways-Towneley records. There is the possibility that future editions of Webtrees do get around this issue of expanding table sizes - and as an ex-progammer there are techniques that could avoid the problem*. But in the short term Webtrees will be restricted to use with the smaller Townsley Extended database.