Recently two online projects surfaced that help users create time lines. Mike Yamamoto covered the SIMILE Timeline project on the News.com blog yesterday. It's a tool that makes it easy for developers to create very cool scrolling maps of time-based data, from minute-by-minute events such as the Kennedy assassination to millions of years of evolution.
SIMILE is an academic exercise; it's not something end users can use yet to create their own time lines. If you want to experiment with time lines today, try Dandelife, a tool that lets you sketch the sweep of your own life in a time line, with associated stories, pictures, and videos.
I found the process of creating a time line in Dandelife very straightforward, although one thing nagged at me: Who on earth would care about the detailed thread of my life, other than me? To be fair, Dandelife is still in very early development, and if its barely working Connect feature evolves into a way for a user to weave the thread of his or her own life into a fabric with other users' time lines, it could make for an interesting site, or at least a fantastic icebreaker for dating.
(Also of interest is Dandelife's bizarre revenue model.)
Google Maps and its competitors spawned a raft of sites that use the map as the central interface into data. SIMILE and Dandelife (and another life tracker, OurStory) are early experiments that do a similar thing, but using the time line as the interface. These two ideas will no doubt merge: mapping sites will get better relationships to time, and the time lines will end up displaying events on some form of map. I'm looking forward to those experiments.