Facebook’s new Timeline Movie Maker does one thing very, very well: It makes you want to upload more photos to Facebook. More photos from earlier in your life, more photos of you with all your friends, and photos that show all the places you’ve been. It’s probably the most effective user engagement tool Facebook has right now, other than vengeful old friends with access to your yearbook.
Timeline Movie Maker is a joint effort between Facebook and Definition6, a unified marketing agency based out of New York. You head to the Movie Maker site, and give Timeline Movie Maker access to, basically, everything your friends can see on your Facebook Timeline. The app then cranks for a surprisingly short amount of time, and follows up with the first screening of your roughly one-minute video. It’s set to your choice of five inevitably peppy tunes and shot from the perspective of a digital camera strapped into a jetpack, flying up your vertical Facebook history and stopping along the way to frame random pictures and notable moments (like a status flipping from “Single” to “Married”). It brings home the point that your Timeline is supposed to be a survey of your young life so far. And it makes you want to upload more and better pictures.
The Timeline Movie of Evan Moore, early adopter (Find more here).
How many pictures? At least 75, and they have to be set to be visible to either all your friends or the setting Facebook really wants to encourage, “Public.” The pictures seem randomly chosen, and the photos that others have tagged you in in other Facebook albums seem to rarely appear, as confirmed by Gizmodo. You can click, click, and click again to remove pictures from the video that you don’t dig, but the replacements are likewise randomly chosen. So if you don’t have enough photos, or you don’t have enough good photos, you’ll find yourself hooking up your backup drives and throwing entire folders of parties, vacations, and moments when you were especially fit into Facebook’s photo uploader. Your friends will wonder why they’re suddenly tagged in 13 photos from a birthday gathering they attended in 2008 but, hey, you tell yourself, that’s the cost of being in pictures.
The decidedly more metal Timeline Movie of Gary Fox, another early adopter on YouTube.
Does it work as a video pitch for yourself or your burgeoning brand? Only if you have the time to pause-play-pause through every single half-second of the one-minute video. Like Facebook itself, the overhead visual scanning of your Timeline movie reveals lots of little details that you might not have prepared for. You might wonder how many people would really freeze-frame your own timeline video to see blurry little details about you from 2011, but you might also wonder which of your former coworkers feels the most aggrieved at your success.
Does it work as a cool little thing you can post to your own timeline? If you have the time to fine-tune all the photos the movie is using. You can frame it around a certain theme, with a lot of work, or make it an ironic statement of your grandeur. But what it would really work best as is as a tool for surprising friends and showing them your great moments together, or as an introduction for the guest of honor at a surprise birthday party. As a self-discovery and amazement tool, Intel’s The Museum of Me is a lot more effective.
So Facebook’s Timeline Movie Maker draws you into spending more free time with it, demands more of your personal data, and feels a bit self-involved. It is, in other words, a sign that Facebook knows what it’s doing and where it’s going.
Note: I asked Alex Blagg, proprietor of BajillionHits.biz and noted “hot young industry veteran,” what he thought of the Timeline Movie Maker. “I finally got around to trying this thing out,” Blagg wrote in an email, “but when I connected it with my Facebook timeline it just showed me Citizen Kane. Pretty cool, I guess.”