Facebook Celebrates 10th Birthday With Nostalgic "Lookback" Tool That Doesn't Really Work

Mark Zuckerberg and Co. unveil a personalized montage that, well, kind of misses the mark.

Believe it or not, Facebook turned 10 today, and the social network and its founder are in a reflective mood. "I remember getting pizza with my friends one night in college shortly after opening Facebook," said Mark Zuckerberg in a status update. "I told them I was excited to help connect our school community, but one day someone needed to connect the whole world."

To celebrate its first decade of connecting people, Facebook rolled out a well-intentioned new Lookback tool, which trawls your Timeline for big emotional events, like engagements and graduations. Then it splices together important moments in a somber montage, complete with mood-setting background music. Don Draper might as well be pitching Kodak.

It's a nice thought. But the problem with algorithmically sifting through peoples' lives and using Likes and comments to zero in on sentimental moments is that it doesn't really work, especially if you deviate from the share-everything ethos of Facebook's ideal user.

You can try Facebook's Lookback machine for yourself here. But I think it's safe to assume that most users, including myself, are far from Facebook's ideal. Everyone uses it differently. Here, for example, is one of my more touching status updates according to Facebook's metrics, which I posted mindlessly when I was covering the 2012 elections for a previous job:

And here's an important Facebook memory ostensibly taken from one of my more forgettable science articles about an ugly fish:

Perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe other users out there will get something a little more in line with the Lookback tool's good intentions, as my colleague John Brownlee did. (You can read his take here.)

Happy birthday in any case, Facebook. Thanks for the memories. Sort of.

Update 2/5/14: It appears some readers have tried to spruce up their Lookback montages by going into Facebook and deleting photos. Do not do this. At the moment, doing so appears to brick Facebook's splicing software, making your video unretrievable. (A few wonderful commenters have pointed out how you can still view the original video in your cache, however.) Also: For some Facebook users, the Lookback video isn't showing up at all and is just displaying pictures. Don't be alarmed! It looks like you just haven't generated enough content on Facebook. Finally, if you'd like to save the video to your computer, the Daily Dot has an excellent walkthrough here on how to do so. If you continue to have other issues, please let us know in the comments.

[Image: Flickr user Will Clayton]

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  • I first opened the link through my android phone using chrome but deleted it accidentally. Only 6 photos were showing and a thank you note from fb team. I tried all the instructions given here to restore it even i reported a problem on fb twice but to no avail. But after two or 3 days-i cannot remember how long it has been really-i logged on to my account through a pc and there! I was able to view and even edit the video. Plus I was able to share it on my wall with my friends. I am not sure how it was fixed but i hope everyone's video here will be fixed as well.:)

  • Jessica Dawn Cox

    It's kinda funny I watched my facebook video yesterday and now all the sudden it's gone and there is only 6 pics instead. And no I didn't delete anything at all.

  • Natalia Chavez

    I have been a facebook user for years and have tons of content...enough to generate a video. I was editing some albums JUST for the sake of editing them, not to make my video nicer or whatever. But now I can't get a video at all. I've tried to clear the history/cache, etc. But I really wanna see my video somehow...is there a way to do it?

  • Evelyn Kokes

    I tried this in Chrome and got this error message in the javascript console

    TypeError: Cannot call method 'getAttribute' of null'

  • Shweta Rajkumar

    I accidentally deleted mine on the IPhone . I want it back. What should I do?

  • Lui Torres

    i've tried to search my chrome cache but didnt find any of the lookback.. is there any other way to retrieve the deleted video.

  • Rhonda Downey

    Hi ! So I did some deleting of the photos. The photos were not from me or anything to do with me. Now I have some slide photos with someone else's photos. Nice idea but the photos should come from my camera or my uploads. Really I have some great photos that I took. And those are my memories! Not someone else's .

  • I'm unable to generate a video at all, despite having had a Facebook profile since 2006, and a VERY active one from that time til at least 2011. I still post 1-3 times a week, but apparently that's not enough now?

  • Shadi Morisset

    If you deleted a post/pic from your video and lost it as a result you can get it back following the instructions listed here... I just did! I followed the directions for the Chrome cache, found the video, saved it to My Computer and posted it to FB. It doesn't have the same tagline/link that it posts if you post from original link but the rest is the same. I had deleted a picture I would have preferred not be in the video, which caused me to lose the video altogether. i assumed it would pick up a different picture when I deleted the one I preferred not to have in the video, but apparently I assumed wrong. Good luck to all those trying to retrieve theirs!

  • Ariel Jean Waldman

    I deleted a picture on my app is there a way to retrieve it if I used the app instead of the internet?

  • David Calamari

    I have been on Facebook for 5 years...I just get six pictures showing up... and friends of mine who just started using it this year were able to make a video.

  • Jeanette Cates

    I've been on since 2007 and I get the same thing. Telling me I don't have content to display is like telling Zuckerberg he doesn't either.

  • I shared and accidentally deleted my vid on my fb on my android phone. I used chrome for my browser. I tried to follow the steps in here but the link is not working for me. It says access denied. Help please.:( i haven't watched it yet.

  • Rosalyn Peña

    SEE DAN BLISS COMMENTS......I'VE FOLLOW HIS ADVISE, I DID THE FOLLOWING: Option: If you download the Google Chrome Plugin Called "Chrome Cache View" and run it, it will bring up all of your Internet Cache. Sort by "Time" and then do a search using "Find". Just keep tring all of the links until you find yours. the link should be very long and start with the following: https://lookbackvideo8-a.akamaihd.net/hvideo-ak-prn2/v/t54/1639243_10152254112628593_35647 ..........

    Download the Plugin from here CNet (safe): http://download.cnet.com/ChromeCacheView/3000-2381_4-10893039.html.

    Once you are able to see the video, download to your computer and then share it on FB.