Timehop has always passed the explain-your-startup-in-a-sentence test with aplomb. It’s a daily email that shows you what you were doing a year ago today through Foursquare checkins, Facebook posts, and tweets. But simplicity isn’t its only charm. The service, which started out as a Foursquare hack by TechStars alums Jonathan Wegener and Benny Wong, switches out of social media’s only gear (realtime–i.e. what’s next, what’s new, what’s now) to look back fondly at the past.
Call us raging solopists, but it’s one of the few newsletters (old news letters might be more apt) that gets opened on arrival. The self-aware copy–upbeat, not cheesy–certainly helps, especially when they accidentally email you multiple times on the worst day of the year.
Recently, the startup tweeted out news of a big, impending update. It’s currently in private beta and won’t be released until next week or so, but Mr. Wegener gave Betabeat a little preview via gChat. “Basically the product is gonna become a lot more social as Timehop transitions from a lonely consumption experience of re-reading your past and moving towards a social place to discuss the past.”
“Well, lonely isn’t the right word haha,” he added, correcting himself, “A ‘one player’ consumption experience.”
That means a friend graph, tagging, and a (year old) newsfeed. “It makes it really easy to poke a friend and say ‘Remember THIS?’ and connect around those shared memories.”
The new product moves Timehop away from email and more towards a web experience, Mr. Wegener explained. In the new version, users have friends. But it’s not going full-on social network, the user profiles will be “pretty lightweight,” eschewing a Facebook-style questionnaire about your interests.
Facebook may have made a big push towards organizing the past with Timeline, Mr. Wegener noted, but Timehop keeps the focus on what you were doing a year ago. You can browse a friend’s Timeline on Facebook, but the experience of liking, say, old photos is sort of “awkward,” he admitted. (As someone who has come close to commenting, “I continue to like this photo I liked in 2010,” we concur.) On Facebook, “It’s not really clear that the past is there for you to interact with, whereas that’s our entire focus. So everyone on the service is reliving the same moment in time.”
Less like solitary stalking, more like shared nostalgia.
Since the service is synched to different social media accounts, Mr. Wegener said Timehop has been particularly mindful of privacy settings. “For example if you uploaded a Facebook photo and only shared it with three friends, we won’t show that to your entire graph.”
So does moving to the web make it easier to monetize? “We’re entirely focused on product development right now,” Mr. Wegener, shrugging off the revenue question. “First we need to concentrate on making the right product so Timehop gets millions and millions of users! Once THAT little task is done, we’ll think about how we can make money.”
The startup has a bit of runway. In January, Timehop raised $1.1 million from seasoned Silicon Alley founders, including Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai and GroupMe cofounders Steve Martocci and Jared Hecht, as well as angel investor Rick Webb.
The way Mr. Wegener sees it, the opportunities in this market have just begun. “There’s still a LOT of unexplored stuff to do in this space,” he said. “Digital memories/personal Internet history is really, really unpaved. It’s only recently that the world is routinely taking tons of photos, capturing their locations, and typing their 140 character thoughts into a little box.”