Will New Social Networks Medium and Branch Change the Communication Game?
Social media is always evolving: new social networks are born, introducing new ways for people to communicate or interact with content – and users, for better or worse, learn to adapt. Twitter founders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone (now known as The Obvious Corporation), recently launched two new social network projects that have the potential to evolve the communication game once again: Medium and Branch. (Note: Both services are currently in Beta phase and only available to a select group of users.)
Before we dive in to what’s offered on these new platforms, let’s look first at some of the trends in the way social networking has evolved. Most obvious: conversations have become shorter and more casual. It started with Twitter; users had to learn how to share and explain things in just 140 characters (and even less if they wanted to include a picture or a link). On the other hand, we’ve seen a rise in visual social networks, like Instagram and Pinterest, on which users can express an idea or a feeling in the moment they have it, just by posting a picture and a short sentence. Branch is leveraging this concept of sharing a brief thought or idea but interestingly enough, shying away from the character limitations and focusing more on limitations in participants. The site essentially provides an interface for people to have “curated conversations” that are more structured and in-depth that what can be had on Twitter, so the fleeting thought or idea isn’t lost as quickly as it was shared. Medium latches on to the visual trend, offering users the opportunity to create themed collections of photos and other visuals, which can be viewable to public users or curated individually.
Communication is also becoming more simplified. The user interfaces of both Branch and Medium are perfect examples of this – very clean, streamlined and elegant – and focused on making it very clear to the user how to use the service to communicate. Branch allows users to start a conversation based on one topic and share it with specific users for their input, while Medium simplifies the content search, as users can organize their thoughts or pictures by categories chosen by them.
In the beginning of this age of digital communications and trendy social media networks, everyone could essentially say whatever they wanted, to whomever they wanted, whenever they wanted. But this excess of information has generated so much noise that users are now feeling burnt out and fed up. Branch and Medium both offer ways of better managing this influx of information through personal content curation – something the founders say is a way of encouraging more sharing of quality content, versus quantity. Branch keeps the conversation limited to the contacts selected by the user that started the topic, which eliminates the noise and clarifies the conversation environment. Medium on the other hand, allows users to publish content “without the burden of becoming a blogger or worrying about developing an audience,” according to Evan Williams’ introduction letter. These pieces of content are then categorized into “collections,” which are segmented by theme and template. Further, each published article has a “good work” button affiliated with it, which readers can use to vote up content (similar to Reddit). The collections, combined with the voting function, give users the ability to easily filter through to the content that’s most meaningful to them.
More than ever, people are looking for conversations. They want to give their opinion and be acknowledged, regardless of whether they are talking about a product or about last weekend’s party. The web navigation pattern has changed: people would rather move more among conversation lines, rather than through pages – something Branch hopes to tap into. And ideally, if a conversation is taking place within Branch, it can be then shared on Twitter or in Medium, demonstrating the integration capacity of all of The Obvious Corporation’s products.