Over the years, it feels like Facebook has become a river of viral links, quizzes, and badgering apps. But to celebrate its 10th birthday, Mark Zuckerberg's social network has created a beautiful experience that reminds users of what Facebook is at its best: a living memory.
Called Look Back, the dynamic web app automatically creates a video of your time at Facebook. Prowling your timeline since the day you first joined Facebook, it plucks out your first moments, your most liked posts, and photos you've shared into a "best of" reel. And yours is absolutely unique; every one of Facebook's 1.23 billion monthly active users presumably has one waiting for him or her.
As someone who gets weary these days even opening Facebook, I was surprised by how touching I found my Look Back. I joined Facebook in 2007, and shortly thereafter, I met and fell in love with my fiancée. My Facebook Look Back is essentially a timeline of our romance, the little micro-moments that I captured on my camera and wanted to share with others. There's the kiss I stole in Barcelona in 2009, the quartet of Jack O'Lanterns we carved in 2011, the two mustaches she encouraged me to grow in 2009 and 2012, respectively.
But Facebook Look Back was also surprisingly good at pinpointing the major moments of my life in the last six years. Both of my most "liked" posts, as it turns out, are about how happy I am to start working for Co.Design. "I love my new job. Every day, I get to wake up and write a story I actually want to read, and put in the time to do it right," I wrote last August after I started. "Likes" often seem like such a mindless mechanism of digital affirmation. It's strange to see how easily Facebook was able to pinpoint a moment that matters to me just as much today as it did half a year ago based solely upon the approval of my friends and family. Maybe "likes" aren't as mindless as they seem sometimes.
Facebook Look Back was a partnership between two groups within Facebook: Everstore, the team in charge of Facebook Media Storage, and Moonshot, a team within Facebook that uses idle server power to generate "think big" projects. Apparently, Look Back was quite the undertaking to put together. There's no HTML5 trickery being used to generate these videos on the fly: instead, it took Facebook weeks to optimize Look Back enough that the time required to render a single video shrank to one minute from 17.
I hope this is something that Facebook invests more in. In another 10 years, Facebook Look Back will remember a marriage I haven't had yet, a house I haven't bought, and maybe even a child I haven't had. It will remember loved ones who have died, friends I have yet to make, accomplishments I haven't thought of, and disappointments I didn't know I would ever have. That seems like a project worth keeping.
Check out your Facebook Look Back video here.