When the early Twitter team composed of co-founders Biz Stone, Ev Williams, and early staffer Jason Goldman announced they would be relaunching their Obvious Corp. incubator this past Spring, the first product we heard anything about was the Quora-meets-Twitter Branch — but now it’s clear there is plenty more in the Obvious Corp. arsenal.
Yesterday, the team peeled back the wraps on Medium, a user-friendly, visually-heavy Web publishing platform. “[We] decided to take on the project of building a new publishing platform from scratch, not just because it’s in our wheelhouse, but because we believe publishing – and media, more broadly – is important,” Obvious Corp announced via blog. “…Medium is designed to allow people to choose the level of contribution they prefer.”
Thus far, only a select handful of Medium users have posting abilities, but the team has invited the world to come on in and take a look. The interface is simple as could be, and posted content is segmented by popularity and by how new it is. While you currently can’t use Medium for publishing your own content, everyone is able to comment and hit “like” on what’s currently available.
It should be obvious (no pun intended) right away that this is a next-gen blogging tool. Making a play for the CMS market is a smart one, as the Web publishing industry as a whole has grown rather complacent. WordPress, hands down, no arguments, dominates — it powers more than 16 percent of all Websites, at last count. And if we’re being honest here, there are no real competitors that can sway professional-level publishers away from WordPress. Tumblr, for all of its inherent usefulness and aesthetic appeal, doesn’t have the back-end capabilities that major media outlets need.
We’re at a crossroads with Web publishing, where curating, sharing, re-posting, and discovery are just as vital to a network as producing compelling content is. Medium uses the increasingly familiar tiles-on-canvas interface that Pinterest helped popularize, and big, browser-filling images that are quickly becoming a Web-wide staple. It actually reminds me of Jux quite a bit. There’s more focus on the topics – or collections, as Medium calls them – than the writers, which doesn’t speak much to its adoption as a WordPress killer.
But Medium probably isn’t trying to be a WordPress killer; no one has much interest in such a futile endeavor. Usually when a new Web product launches, it’s to capitalize on an emptiness in the market, or offer a better option to what’s currently available, and that doesn’t feel like what Medium is trying to do. Instead, Obvious Corp. seems to be trying to evolve the conversation about blogging and Web communication with Medium; it’s a gentle nudge in a new direction. Whether we’re receptive or not remains to be seen.