At The Intersection Between Design And Data, Facebook Timeline Was Born

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Today at Facebook’s f8 conference in San Francisco, CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed off a huge change to the service: Timeline. It’s the Profile reborn, and it looks great. Later, Facebook’s head of product Chris Cox took the stage to talk about the feature’s inception.

Cox largely credits two people: Nicholas Felton and Sam Lessin.

Cox waxed poetic about Felton’s history. He gushed about Felton’s Feltron Annual Reports, which stared in 2005. “14 pages. One year. One book,” Cox noted. It was all about organizing the years of his life in a beautiful, visual way. “It was hard to call it anything other than what it really was — art,” Cox continued.

“We had one reaction: we have to try to hire this guy.”

And Facebook did just that. When they bought Felton’s startup Daytum this past April, Felton and co-founder Ryan Case moved from New York to Palo Alto to help weave their data analysis instincts into the future of the Facebook Profile.

Cox then turned his attention to Lessin. Facebook also acquired his startup, Drop.io, last year in order to get him. He had one job: to re-imagine the Profile. Lessin noted that “the single biggest lost opportunity in the history of human story telling” was the way the Profile was laid out when he joined. He printed out all of the information he had shared on his profile since he joined Facebook in 2004 to prove his point. It stretched across Facebook’s entire office.

Cox noted that when they accidentally launched a product called “Memories” this past summer for a few hours, the reaction was huge. This was a taste of what was to come with Timeline. “We tucked that away, and kept working,” Cox said.

Today, the work is complete — though Timeline will be slowly rolling out over the next couple of months to everyone, there will be a beta of it starting today. Facebook’s recent focus on design, and their moves to acquire as much top-tier design talent is possible is now evident.

“We’re a culture of builders. Now let’s go build something awesome,” Cox said in closing.