The news today that the founders of Blogger and Twitter, Ev Williams and Biz Stone, have launched not one but two new social publishing/discussion platforms will surely have crossed your radar. When these guys do something, it’s bound to be big news in social-land.
The platforms, Branch and Medium, look promising – though both are at very early stages. Like most, I haven’t yet had a chance to play with them but I’m keen to get started – they look like they could both fill a real need.
But based on the stated intentions of the two platforms, what’s most interesting is how both seem designed to alter the Twitter experience. Both Branch and Medium are both plugged into Twitter and use it at the heart of their design.
Just to step back for a second and outline the two…
Branch is a place to go when you want to carry on an interesting debate. So rather than a whole range of @conversations appearing in your timeline as contacts carry on a merry natter, the chats could take place in a ‘Branch’, which you log into and invite contacts to participate in. It’s public – and anyone can see your conversation – but they have to go to the ‘Branch’ to do so. So if ten of your contacts are ‘in a Branch’ to chat about a new restaurant, you can drop in and listen, but their updates won’t appear in your Twitter feed. Here's an example: http://branch.com/b/apple-hardware-leaks
With Medium, Williams and Stone seem to have built a platform that’s a cross between Blogger and Instagram, based on some of their sample collections. It’s very easy to write and edit in, and not character-limited. Collections are public, anyone can contribute to them – and any reader that signs in via Twitter can vote on the best content. It seems to be a way of curating vast swathes of information – much in the way that Twitter and Instagram are great filters through which to view the world – where like-minded people help you to find the information that matters to you. Collections here can be either public or private. Medium feels very much more like a blog – perhaps like Tumblr – than Pinterest (posts can be just words and needn’t have an image attached).
What both launches have the potential to do, it seems, is change the way that Twitter looks and feels. One of the things that can be most daunting about joining Twitter for the first time is that it seems that you’re walking into a party where everyone knows each other – they’re all talking and you’re not yet involved. The original question that Twitter posed as an invitation to post: ‘What are you doing?’ seems to have been superseded by a lot of public conversations. If more in-depth conversations can be pulled out of the main Twitter interface and into side alleys via Branch, then Twitter regains some of its original feel. Not necessarily a bad thing, when competitors are nipping at Twitter’s heels. But of course, its success depends on people taking that extra step to move a chat into a branch. Potentially, by the time an organic discussion is halfway through, many might just carry on rather than ‘branch’ off. But the intention is interesting.
Medium’s biggest potential seems to be as an Instagram competitor – but with more versatility. So what will this change? Well, bearing in mind that Instagram is now owned by Facebook, it must be starkly obvious to Twitter, through the thousands of millions of Instagram pics tweeted every second, that a competitor has stolen a march. Instagram wasn’t a competitor when it launched – it needed Twitter as much as Twitter benefitted from its rise. But now, Instagram is owned by the other team – and it’s sitting right in the middle of Twitter’s patch. If Stone and Williams’ Obvious Corporation (the incubator behind these businesses and many others – including Twitter once upon a time) can build a better alternative, the land is still theirs for the taking.
By PR and marketing manager Claire Foss @claire_foss