Site launch: August 14, 2012
Official Site: Medium.com
If you haven’t bumped into Medium before, go and take a look, right now—this piece will make a lot more sense if you do. You can browse through the home page or the Top 100 posts, or take a look at this story to see some of the distinctive features Medium offers.
It’s (internet) famously hard to define exactly what Medium-the-company is trying to do. How do they plan to make money? What do they want the platform to be? Why should I, as an author write there? Ben Thompson has gotten as close to answering these questions as anyone (perhaps including even the folks who run Medium), writing that Medium is “a site built on the idea that nothing matters beyond the content of an individual post.”
However, while trying to figure out Medium-the-company is its own kind of pundit-y fun, I’m much more interested in Medium-the-product. Medium has taken great pains (no, seriously) to create an exquisitely polished writing and reading tool. Here are three things that I think they’ve gotten really right:
- A single, standardized, really lovely aesthetic. This isn’t WordPress—you can’t change your theme. In fact, there’s just The Theme. It’s a very Apple approach: we’ve spent a hell of a lot of time thinking about the presentation details for you so that you can focus on creating great content. Some of the distinctive features of this aesthetic: large, lovely body type, plenty of whitespace, and big, bold (in fact, often full-screen) images. If you haven’t already started seeing the influence of this look around the web, I guarantee that you will soon.
- Just the right balance of multimodal tools. You can include images, videos, pull quotes, and blurred, parallax-scrolling images over which you can set text (they’re the thing you see about a quarter of the way through this post.) While we’ve seen a profusion of really rich multimodal pieces from publications like the New York Times, Medium feels like a really thoughtful, accessible, and web-native distillation of all the crazy stuff we can now do on the web.
- An editing view that’s nearly indistinguishable from the published view. If you’ve worked with other web-based text editors, the first time you write something in Medium, you’ll probably giggle with delight. If you’re used to WordPress or Tumblr, you’re probably used to composing a piece and then previewing it in a separate window to make sure it looks right. With Medium, there’s none of that—as you type, your work looks just like the finished project. It feels almost like writing with a magical digital pen; it’s really that good and nice. This sense of immediacy and directness of interface is, I think, crucial, and, just like Medium’s aesthetic, we’re starting to see this process imitated around the web.
I’m as curious as anyone about what will happen to Medium-the-company, but for now, I’m just incredibly grateful for all that Medium-the-product has brought to the web.