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Twitter Founders Look to Reboot Digital Publishing

Medium aims to elevate Web content with more collaborative publishing

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Anytime Biz Stone and Evan Williams have any sort of announcement, the tech world listens. Late Tuesday, via a blog post, Williams, one of Twitter's co-founders, introduced the world to Medium, a new platform for online publishing. 

Medium is the brainchild of The Obvious Corporation, a parent company founded by Stone, Williams and Jason Goldman. You may not have heard of Obvious, but chances are you've heard of one of its successful side projects—a little company called Twitter. After Twitter's success, Obvious fell by the wayside but was rebooted in June 2011 under a veil of secrecy by the founders. 

At first glance Medium feels like it shares some very basic ideas with Pinterest. Much like that fast-growing social bookmarking site, which features pin boards, where users can curate a themed collection of pictures and other visuals, Medium employs "collections," which can be open to multiple users or curated privately.

The examples Obvious has provided shows collections as themed pages, often with multiple contributors that aim to create a larger content experience.  Obvious has created a few of these collaborative pages including "Been There. Loved That," "Look What I Made" and "The Writer's Room" which showcase some uses for the platform. 

But to label Medium as a Pinterest clone would seem to downplay the ambitions of Obvious and Medium, as the company's goals are far loftier. The company is essentially looking to upend the current Web publishing model. Williams, who helped found the blogging platform Blogger over a decade ago, calls the new project "an attempt to make an evolutionary leap, based on everything we’ve learned in the last 13 years and the needs of today’s world," an idea that he admits "sounds pretty grandiose."

It is unclear this early on how online publishers might best use Medium. As it stands, the platform would seem to initially appeal more to individuals rather than major publishers, yet one could imagine a few forward-thinking media companies latching onto Medium (which requires—big surprise—a Twitter account to sign up) and looking to tap into its inherent social nature.

Similar to sites like Reddit, content posted via Medium will be displayed based on user ratings, with the best content appearing at the top of each collection. With this system, publishers may be able to repurpose select content on Medium and allow users to read and add fresh narratives to an emerging conversation.

Currently, posting to Medium is limited to a select grouping of friends and family, but as more voices are added to the platform, we'll soon see if the brains behind successful platforms like Blogger and Twitter have a third act in them.