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Facebook Lets You Download Data

November 8th, 2010
facebook  [html]

About a month ago facebook started letting users download their information. This weekend I got around to playing with it. For some reason everyone wants you to watch a video to see how to download stuff. It's not tricky and doesn't need a video:
  1. Go to account settings
  2. Click "learn more" next to "download your information"
  3. Some dialog boxes make you click ok
  4. FB says it needs some time to collect your information, and will send an email when it's ready
  5. You get an email with a link to the zip file.
I was somewhat surprised by how long it took to collect the information and send out the zip file. For me it took 3.5hr. Does it take as long for other people?

One thing I'm curious is how much history is retained. I've been on facebook since at least 11/2005 [1] and over that time they've gone from about 5 million users to 500 million. I'm sure they've changed a lot of systems since then, and it wouldn't be surprising if they couldn't pull my oldest data. So:

  • Events: my oldest listed event is from 4/2006. I think I attended events before then, but I don't remember.
  • Wall: for some reason my wall only goes back to 6/2008. With the normal web interface, after a lot of "show more posts" clicking, I determined that my wall goes back before then to at least 4/2008. I could keep clicking and find out how long ago it goes, but it's not much fun.
  • Messages: my first message is from 11/2005. That's probably the first message I got.
  • Notes: these go back to 2004, when I was definitely not on facebook, probably because facebook trusted the dates on the posts imported from my rss feed
  • Photos: these are only albums I put up, and go back to 2006. Whatever profile picture I had before the one I put up in 12/2006 is apparently gone.
Overall, it's neat, though I was actually surprised how little there was. It took me less time to look through all of it than it did for facebook to prepare it for downloading.


[1] Dating things like this is hard. I have a blog post from 11/2005 that mentions being on facebook. I think I remember being on facebook when it was opened to high schoolers (and all the complaining about how younger people would ruin it), which facebook says happened in 9/2005. Apparently facebook won't tell you your join date.

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