This year has been a tipping point for Lifestreaming. It has evolved quite a bit from the super geeky bailing wire and duct tape method of being a DIY project I started covering back in 2007. With advancements in technology, primarily through the proliferation of API’s, it has penetrated and mutated its way across the web. But the one place it landed to now become ubiquitous is with Facebook’s creation of the Timeline feature which has brought it to over 800 million people.
There have been many ways of providing a presentation layer for a Lifestream. Early on most methods didn’t provide access to the long tail for a person’s posts. I wanted to see a calendar (or timeline) view to make a Lifestream become more of a historical record of the past. Several services started to pop up using the Timeline method and thus this digital diary metaphor was born. I believe it’s the most compelling form of Lifestreaming for an individual to be driven to create one. Providing the feature using a simple interface in a dominant social network has now brought this to the masses. I like to think that the knowledge gained by the FriendFeed talent acquisition is what helped propel Facebook to do this…and here we are.
During the early days of Lifestreaming there were many debates regarding its value. Initially services tried to become the hub of Lifestreaming activity and it was a bit difficult to realize the ways that content discovery would eventually become the catalyst driving so many people to do it. But over time the proliferation of API’s would bring about more sophisticated ways to take lifestreaming data and provide both great function and beautiful design. We now have many apps that are built on the backs of the Lifestreaming data people share across multiple services. We have social reader apps that aggregate the links we share on social networks, sometimes with some logic to prioritize the viewing order, and beautiful visual ways to display them.
The passive (aka frictionless) method of sharing was made popular this year by having the stream of our music listening habits from Spotify populate our Facebook Timeline. We’ve actually been doing this since 2008 by scrobbling from last.fm but only now is it a big deal as it hits the mainstream. Passive sharing is just starting to scratch the surface of where it’s going. It will become much more prevalent and start automating many of the updates to our Lifestreams.
Most passive sharing actions will come from apps on our mobile phones (soon with NFC) connected to our Lifestream. Path was another new entrant in the Lifestreaming arena with their revamped app release this year. The new version took steps to add passive sharing by posting updates in the background to our timelines based on monitoring our geographical location on our phones. Theoretically they could also monitor the audio to passively share our TV or movie viewing using Intonow technology. We will also see passive sharing coming from the stats behind our workouts, sleeping patterns, weight, and many other health based stats to Lifestreams coming from the growing popularity of Lifelogging devices. These devices will see huge growth as monitoring this data will provide health benefits including added motivation by sharing information socially.
As we move into 2012 it will be interesting to see how the Facebook Timeline evolves with many more third party apps populating it with data. I think the jury is still out on whether the Timeline will be a success depending on the usage and adoption. However, I am bullish on more innovation with mobile apps like Path coming and a new breed of services being launched to aggregate the health data generated from all these new lifelogging devices. It should be quite an interesting year as the Lifestreaming concept continues to reshape itself in line with advancements in technology. As always, I’m looking forward to watching it and sharing my findings with you here.