Product Innovation Trends

Facebook’s Look Back: From Concept to Launch in Under 30 days

Madeline Wigen | March 17, 2014

When Facebook launched its Look Back video feature on February 4, users’ newsfeeds were flooded with nostalgic videos highlighting their friends’ top shared content over the past decade. The feature was a huge hit. Expectations that 10% of users who viewed their video would share it were exceeded by a factor of four. It was also a notable accomplishment in product delivery.

Last week the developer team at Facebook provided some insight into the project. Facebook’s team of engineers built an algorithm to analyze and select moments from user feeds, then rendered and stored the videos to be ready for retrieval by users. With hundreds of millions of users and videos to be made, the task created big challenges in storage and bandwidth. The engineering team adjusted their servers so as not overwhelm the system and Facebook was able to render 720 million videos in a fraction of the time expected.facebook_look_back

Perhaps most surprisingly,  the entire product cycle—from concept to launch—took less than one month. Given the business need to deliver Look Back in conjunction with the Facebook ten-year anniversary, the deadline was remarkably tight.

Facebook’s entire business model depends on its ability to bring users to and keep them on the site. Last year, the company admitted they had seen a drop in activity among teens. While overall usage of the social network was up at the end of last year, we should expect to see Facebook rolling out more features that aim to bring people back to the site and prompt them to engage. The company is demonstrating nimbleness in bringing new features and iterations of their product to their users quickly. The same pressures are being felt by tech companies Intel, Apple and Samsung in 2014 as they fight for market share.

Time-to-market pressure features prominently in Gartner’s most recent ADLM Magic Quadrant report, which states “Organizations are under pressure to accelerate the speed of delivery of increasingly complex applications, while improving overall productivity and quality.” Jama recently partnered with Forrester Consulting to develop an industrywide survey in which speed emerged as a major competitive pressure. Among the key findings, more than 70 percent of companies are releasing more frequently than quarterly. Four releases a year, once standard, now represent the old guard. The comprehensive results and analysis from the study are available in a full report with an accompanying infographic and join the LinkedIn Product Delivery Group to stay ahead of current product trends.