There is no shortage of platforms to post your ideas, photos, videos—whatever—online, but today we got another high-profile one. Medium announced itself with a lofty manifesto about publishing and media. But, um, what makes it different and why should anybody use it?
Twitter founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone are back again with yet another service you can use to broadcast your anything on the internet. This time around the focus is on a clean, simple design that emphasizes the quality of the work that's made and makes it easy for anyone to use it as much or as little as they want.
Ev Stone's introductory treatise casts Medium as a home for media. Whereas images, video, and the like are secondary to text on blogs and Twitter, Medium's supposed to be able to bend equally to everything. The key, though, is that the emphasis is on the quality of the content rather than on the person who makes it.
When you post something to Medium, you file it into a "collection," a thematically linked grouping of videos, words, pictures, etc.
For example, Williams created a collection of nostalgic photos. Another collects beautiful travel photography. In all of them the content is huge and the author's name is tiny. You see the theme developing here?
At the bottom of every post is Medium's equivalent of the Like/Upvote/Digg/+1 button that allows you to indicate your approval of what you're looking at. This boosts a post within a particular collection, but it's unclear if there'll be some kind of global leaderboard or how the heck you'll find content and collections that interest you in the first place.
There's really nothing new about Medium, but Williams admits that they haven't totally figured out how it will work. Right now it just seems like a Frankensteinish PinTumblReddit. Take a look at the sample collections and ask yourself if they're really substantively different from what you can make elsewhere.
They look like Subeddits with Pinterest visuals or Tumblrs by groups of users rather than just one.
Still, Medium insists it's different—that it's designed so that the experience is just as good for people who want to publish and those who don't; and that the experience of putting up content is just as enjoyable regardless of whether or not your collection is popular. At the very least, the thing isn't ugly and monstrous at all. It's beautiful, which is a good sign because if Medium succeeds it'll be riding on the strength of its usability.
Oh, and while anyone with a Twitter account can sign up to view and promote content on Medium, publishing isn't open to the public yet. New users are slowly being invited, but it's pretty clear that the product is a long way from finished.