Can the creators of Blogger and Twitter really revolutionize web publishing again? We may find out soon. If they don't, it's not for lack of trying.
Blogger and Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams are at it again. After the two stepped back from Twitter, they resurrected their startup Obvious. A few months ago, Stone told us about Medium. Kind of. Details were vague. Here's a snippet of what he said at the time:
Thirteen years ago we helped democratize publishing with a web-native approach called blogging. That was a long time ago and everything is different now—social networks, mobile devices, you name it. We felt compelled to build a content network for the technology age we’re living in now, and we have a vision for what publishing should be.
Putting ideas on the Internet is great, it makes them available to more people. However, printing words on a screen like we do on paper doesn’t take advantage of the fact that we’re all networked and using powerful computers. There is so much room for improvement and innovation in the publishing space right now because it’s operating on outdated legacy concepts. Everything from the way we consume content to how that content is created needs re-imagining.
In late October, Williams shared a little more:
It’s not too late to rethink how online publishing works and build a system optimized for quality, rather than popularity. Where anyone can have a voice but where one has to earn the right to your attention. A system where people work together to make a difference, rather than merely compete for validation and recognition. A world where thought and craftsmanship is rewarded more than knee-jerk reactions.
Truth be told, we’re just starting the journey of figuring out what all that means. We have an amazing team with a ton of relevant experience, but we’ve built just a sliver of what we have in mind. And we know it will be a learning process as we go.
Still not much in the way of details. What the hell are these guys doing this time? Well, finally, Williams has provided some details. They're creating a form of web writing/publishing where the WSYIWYG interface is actually what you get.
If you think about writing and editing a blog in edit mode, the edit mode, would also be the product. Of course, much like with Twitter, they seem to be going for the simplicity approach. Here's what it looks like (so far). It's a screenshot of Williams' post:
Medium's editor gives the user few options, and that appears to be the point. Simplicity. In the way of formatting, you can use bold, italics, H1, H2, blockquotes and links. You can add pictures. That's about it. A few more options may be added, but consider how simple Twitter stayed while these guys were running the show (even if it's evolved significantly since then).
It would be easy to sit here and say, "So, that's it?" To be perfectly blunt, the whole thing seems a little underwhelming on the surface. It basically sounds like blogging with less features. However, I can also distinctly remember a time when Twitter largely faced a similar reaction from the masses. Now, look at it. These guys have a proven track record for this kind of thing, so I would not be so quick to dismiss what they're up to.