The internet already acts as a personal time capsule. Google allows us to measure the size of our digital footprint, while apps like Timehop show us what we were doing on Facebook and Twitter a year ago.
In that spirit comes The History Project, a new storytelling platform that launched Wednesday.
The site allows users to create a digital timeline chronicling events that occurred both online and offline, giving them a full range of multimedia tools to tell their story. THP users can annotate their personal narratives by importing photos, videos, documents and social media posts.
The site began as a passion project for Niles Lichtenstein, who serves as the CEO of THP. Lichtenstein, 32, became inspired when he stumbled upon his late father's vinyl record collection.
From there, Lichtenstein cobbled together as much information about his dad as he could, a process he described as "time-consuming and complex." The end result was a dropbox folder on his computer desktop with a bunch of media files.
"It felt very underwhelming," Lichtenstein said.
After discussions with friends, Lichtenstein sought to develop an alternative. And THP was born.
He said that while "offline assets" are vanishing, "We have digital content that's created at such a rapid clip. They become these overflowing chronicles. If you or I were to disappear tomorrow, how would our stories be told?"
Unlike social media sites such as Facebook, Lichtenstein said that THP isn't meant for users to "overshare."
"If there are 40 photos of you at a restaurant, maybe just choose one," Lichtenstein said.
His own personal timeline details his relationship with his wife. Their first date is commemorated with a screenshot of their first email correspondence, along with an audio recording of his wife describing the outing.
Users can create their own accounts for free, but THP also offers a paid version known as "concierge" through which a trained team of writers and artists will curate a timeline for anyone who lacks the technical skills. Lichtenstein said that THP will also begin teaching the technology at senior centers and retirement homes in the San Francisco area.
"We found there was a really deep desire for this from people who were aging and didn't have the technical skills or didn't have the time," he said.
Lichtenstein developed the site in a startup incubator with co-founder Ben Yee, and the two almost immediately drew interest from some big names. The musician Jewel has created a timeline to complement her autobiography, while HBO and the Dallas Morning News have used THP for promotional efforts. The New York Times is THP's lead investor.
William Bardeen, senior vice president, strategy and development, at The New York Times Company, said that the investment was attractive "because it combines strong entrepreneurial leadership with a compelling market opportunity that is consistent with the mission of The New York Times company."