All of Me 88 248.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In today's social mediaholic society, on-line addictions to sites like Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr and YouTube are commonplace. And although it's as easy as the click of a few buttons to jump from one piece of real estate to the next, an innovative new Israeli start-up has come up with a new way of viewing personal information that eliminates the need for site flipping. By taking virtual assets aggregated from the entire Internet (pictures, videos, blog entries, articles, documents, pages, etc.), the All of Me Web site automatically generates a time line of your life.
The marketing tag line below co-founders Addy Feuerstein's, Tal Yaniv's and Guy Levitan's business cards reads: "Put yourself together." And this is the premise for their Web site, which was founded in the spring of 2007 with a concept and quickly became a reality after they raised money from local Internet icon Yossi Vardi.
All of Me was able to raise more capital from Shlomo Nechama and Steve Case, which led to it to quick product development with a team of 11 employees. After a year and a half, All of Me released a public beta and then promptly ran out of cash, right in time for the global recession. Currently whittled down to the three founders now, they downsized to keep afloat and were fortunately able to raise more capital.
But the crisis did shift their focus to expanding their horizons and exploring other directions for their core idea, which allows users to time line themselves.
As Feuerstein zips along his own personal time line, replete with videos, images, articles and Twitter updates on a large screen in the cozy two-room office in central Tel Aviv, he explains that there are three levels of time lines: a personal time line, a network of time lines that includes friends and family members, and a time line within the context of the larger world, which includes archives from Wikipedia, TechCrunch, Billboard Top Hits and many others.
"It's a unique concept because it changes the way information is displayed," says Feuerstein. "We're moving from vertical to horizontal."
ALL OF Me also solves a dilemma surrounding digital assets on-line that Feuerstein calls "the sinking dilemma" in which items are uploaded to one Web site but not visible on another. "If you create a Flickr account, no one knows about it on your e-mail, for example, unless you invite them to view it."
To make displaying and sharing your digital life easier and more efficient, All of Me uses an aggregation technology that scours the Internet for tags and then organizes them by date in a horizontal slider. Users can enlarge, reduce, zoom in on, save, remove and filter time lines to show only items from a specific source. Aside from searching for your name, you can also import personal items from other existing accounts and save them all on your personal time line.
On the technology side of things, the founders are particularly proud of the ability to compare one time line to another. Users can view their personal time line above the time lines of Time magazine, National Geographic or Microsoft, for example. This feature also enriches the depth of a personal time line by allowing people to compare their personal history with that of the larger world.
"I can add books, movies and music that were significant to my life to my own personal time line," explains Feuerstein as he scrolls through the top 500 movies from the Internet Movie Database. This unique display tries to capture the way people consider their life and place life events within a specific context. Personal milestones take on different meaning when you visualize them in relation to larger global happenings like September 11 or US President Barack Obama's inauguration speech.
Yet displaying events from the Internet comes with its own set of challenges. It's difficult for a crawler to tell the difference between a blog posted in April 2009 and its content, which may be about World War II. "The time lines are automatically created and right now we don't analyze the content itself, but we do manually check the results to ensure accuracy because of this very problem," Levitan says.
ANOTHER IMPORTANT glitch that was of paramount importance to overcome was the issue of on-line security. Many people are unaware that every step they take on-line - from buying a book on Amazon to posting a reply to a blog - is being traced, tracked, archived and disseminated.
"One of the problems we faced with aggregation of content is the security risks," says Levitan. "We had to hold the rope with both hands to make sure that our site is truly secure, so we decided to make it impossible to access the information on a time line unless it has been shared with permission by the user."
To generate revenue, All of Me started licensing its technology to large content providers like Ynet. Its archival data can now be accessed in a horizontal way that makes it easier to view and use as a research tool. The goal is to license the technology to as many content provider Web sites as possible, including newspapers and media outlets, and then aggregate all of this data on its own Web site and syndicate it to third parties.
On top of cool little widgets that people can use to embed their personal All of Me time line on an external Web site, the team is currently working on a project called "the big time line" that Feuerstein describes as "the same thing as Google Earth, with its layers of information, but with time as the basic axis." The idea is to form a collaborative history of mankind in one giant time line generated by users from around the world.
The idea is certainly innovative and the application is fun to use, but still admittedly has quite a few kinks to work out. "We launched in beta and we are still in beta," says Levitan. "We are still working out how to define our ideas in the evolution of the program. It's much larger than our small team."