Branch, the discussion-based social network backed by Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams, has today left private beta and is open to the public. With new features for users to explore, the site is poised to reinvent online conversation.
Announced last March, Branch is the brainchild of the Obvious Corporation, composed of Stone, Williams, and early Twitter staffer Jason Goldman. At the time, the group endeavored to combine the best of the blogs with the fluidity of the Twitter feed while cutting through the noise. The result was the “branch” clean interface for the dialogue that encourages organic discussion. In that way, people could come together about ideas and interests, speak naturally about them with embedded content, and keep track of what their friends and colleagues say in real time.
A simple idea, to be sure, but here the execution is everything, and Branch has been praised for its being a platform that gets out of the way of high-quality conversation.
With its release to the public come new features that promise to make the service more robust. Users can now highlight sentences and passages in what others of their friends write, showcasing something that might be “worth your time” to other readers. There’s also the Activity Feed, which grants to the user the ability to track who interacts with their group and how popular a conversation is becoming. Finally, branches now feature Spotify and SoundCloud integration so you can listen to music while you talk.
Going hands on, Branch feels like a fully wrought product. It feels good, seamlessly integrating with your Twitter and Google accounts and even your browser. In truth, it’s reminiscent of how Facebook comments work, but the extra features add so much more to the overall experience. If you want a taste of what that’s like, follow our discussion here.
It remains to be seen if Branch really catches on. But if it does, those of us tired of the noise might have a quiet refuge to talk about what we care about.