A Northwestern University joint initiative of Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science. Northwestern University joint initiative of Medill & McCormick School of Engineering.

TimelineJS picked up by storytellers worldwide, some examples

Back in March the Knight Lab partnered with Medill Associate Professor Zach Wise (a former staffer at The New York Times and part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the Las Vegas Sun) to launch a product that was then known as Timeline.

In the 2.5 months since the launch, Timeline has grown and adapted to user needs and the marketplace. For starters, the name changed from Timeline to Timeline JS – a move that makes the product easier to market and gives a nod to the technology’s JavaScript roots.

In addition to the name change, Professor Wise has also added significant functionality to the technology. Journalists can now (or will very soon be able to) include content from Wikipedia, Instagram, and Storify with the same ease as they can with the original media sources: Twitter, Flickr, Google Maps, YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, and SoundCloud. The number of languages that Timeline JS supports has more than doubled since the launch. And Timeline JS groups on GitHub and Google promote discussion, product support and allow users to share their work. A Sao Paulo developer has created a WordPress plug-in, which makes using Timeline JS with WordPress even easier.

But the real success of Timeline JS has been the speed and variety of sites that have picked up the technology and used it to tell stories. In just under three months, Timeline JS has been picked up by news organizations from Austria to Japan and from Argentina to Canada.

It has been used primarily as a tool for journalists and news organizations that have used it to cover some of the biggest stories of the last several months, including the hunt for suspected murderer Luka Magnotta and the disappearance of Susan Powell. But it’s also been used by advocacy groups and reimagined by designers as a tool for presenting creative portfolios.

In Chicago, Meating Place Magazine (a B2B publication for the meat industry) used Timeline JS to document the history and recent controversy over “pink slime.” City Mag used it to give readers a history of NATO and the Chicago food scene. The Wilmette Patch documented stolen lottery tickets.

All told, Timeline JS has been deployed at least 70 times.

Here are just a few examples Timeline JS in use:

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Northwestern University Knight Lab advances news media innovation through exploration, experimentation and education. The Lab's free publishing tools help to make information more meaningful and promote quality storytelling on the Internet.

About the author

About Posted on June 8, 2012 Posted by

Ryan Graff


News nerd ecstatic for the future of news. Formerly a Colorado-based reporter and magazine writer. Presently the Lab’s editor, and handler of marketing and outreach.