Personal data on the web is growing rapidly. More people are spending a greater percentage of their time social networking (time spent per user on social networking sites has grown over 300% in the last two years). Additionally, there are more people coming online for the first time every day, and, based on current usage statistics, 4 out of 5 of those new users will engage with social networking sites.
Despite (or because of) the fact that social networking data is growing wildly, the shelf life of any piece of social data is remarkably short. It varies a bit by social site, but in my own personal experience, I find the shelf life of a piece of data on Facebook is about 8-12 hours, on Twitter it’s closer to 1-2 hours, on Tumblr it’s somewhere in between those two extremes, and so on. After a newly contributed piece of social data rolls off of people’s latest feeds, it lives in purgatory of obscurity. It’s not deleted, but it’s rarely, if ever, referenced again. Some social data will become SEO honey pots (like the downed USAir flight in the Hudson River posted to Twitter, which was widely circulated), but 99.99% of it will remain in existence, but without a purpose and will never be resurfaced.
This is an opportunity, and it’s one that I’m excited our latest investment at Spark is tackling. Timehop, founded by Jonathan Wegener and Benny Wong, is a company dedicated to making old personal data relevant again by resurfacing it at opportunistic moments in the future. It’s not just limited to data from social services — users leave data trails everywhere they go, on every device they touch, and all that data is part of the big opportunity here.
The product Timehop offers is a daily email that shows you what you did 1 year ago today, every morning. It’s a daily dose of nostalgia that must be experienced first-hand to fully understand. If you’re on the edge, the press (NYT, Wired) has already done a good job describing this experience, so I won’t retread their steps.
I’ve personally noticed that since using Timehop, I now check-in at venues more often and post more photos to Instagram, knowing that the data exhaust from my actions is being synthesized into a diary I’ll read a year from now. Each update I make online now feels less fleeting; Timehop has created another reason for me to post.
I first came across Jonathan Wegener and Benny Wong when I saw them present onstage at the New Tech Meetup back in June of 2009. They presented a iPhone app called Exit Strategy, and I was totally enamored with their clean and simple product execution. You can watch them present here. I knew then these guys were extraordinarily talented makers, and I’m delighted now two and a half years later to have the privileged of working with them. I’m also excited that Bryce Roberts of OATV is a co-investor in the company.
If you have not done so already, sign up for Timehop and experience it for yourself. Let me know what you think after a couple days of emails.
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