Via a post the other day from Lifehacker, I've been checking out a new site called XTimeline at http://www.xtimeline.com. The site allows you to create web-based timelines based on data you provide, using a couple of different file formats (CSV or RSS), or by entering events on the timeline by hand. The coolest option is to provide an RSS feed and it creates a timeline with points along the line for each item in your feed. Once you create an account and log in, you can create your own timelines, share them with others (or make them private), embed them into your own site, and so on.
The image above is based on the data from a Yahoo Pipes RSS feed I created a while back. It's a feed that pulls together items from this blog, my del.icio.us bookmarks, and other online accounts I have. It's not very interesting or voluminous, but it did highlight how easy it is to create a timeline. The only thing that wasn't immediately intuitive was that there was an extra steps to "add events from RSS", wherein it takes the published date for each item out of the feed.
In addition to creating timelines from RSS feeds, you can upload data in CSV format, browse through a ton of public timeliness others have created, identify favorite timelines, rate them, tag timelines with keywords, and so on. Some cool examples include a history of the internet, the history of video games, and a timeline of music in the United States.
Creating an account is free and requires only an email address. I don't see options around "premium" services, so aside from some subtle ads on the site, there doesn't appear to be an obvious monetization plan -- not that wikipedia has one either, right? Either way, it's a really cool site for data and infoporn geeks. They've also got a blog where the founders/developers update on site improvements and changes. In their initial announcement, they answer the "Why Timelines?" question:
Why make a site just for timelines?
Making a dynamic timeline widget isn't enough -- you need to have a place to create, store, and share them with other people. We like to think of xtimeline as a cross between wikipedia and youtube. Like all user-generated content sites, you can upload your own thoughts, media, and opinions. Eventually, we think some timelines will become well-known enough to be online references.
I really dig seeing cool visualization tools like this, especially when (just like Swivel and Many Eyes before) they make it so easy to explore and create new views of data. Well done!