Branch and Medium: The Brand New Social Networks from Twitter
Social Networking is big news and big money, and with over 200 well known Social Networking sites available, you can find one for almost any group or interest. From Partyflock.nl (for Dutch house music fans), right through to Ravelry.com (for those interested in knitting and crochet, naturally) you can chat and share your experiences more easily than ever before.
Into this scene come Branch and Medium, two brand new social networks from the creators of Twitter. I've had a look at both of these networks and given my thoughts below...
Branch, like its name suggests, is about connecting things. But rather than a random selection of various thoughts from completely different perspectives (like a Twitter feed), Branch focusses the user's thoughts and creates meaningful conversations that have thematic links and can be explored intelligently.
This emphasis on a more intelligent, academic approach to social networking is key, as Biz Stone, Twitter co-founder, describes:
"[It] enables a smart new brand of high quality public discourse. Curated groups of people invited to engage around issues in which they are knowledge[able]."
This is essentially trying to find a new approach to blogging and is ground that has already been broken by sites such as Pinterest and Posterous, but builds on these ideas by bringing a more genuine level of interactivity through 'branches' that link subject matters. Branch could easily be the next big networking site, but don't expect this to be picked up by the usual fashion-makers of the 13-20 age group. This is a mature network for those more interested in deeper knowledge, rather than the instant-updating networks like Facebook or Twitter.
Medium takes a slightly different approach to Branch, but is still focused on intelligent networking. The heart of Medium is all about 'collections' and clicking on the "Good Story" rating button (similar to "like" on Facebook). New posts are part of collections that connect similar themed posts with the highest rated appearing at the top of the page, meaning you get to see a variety of different stories, photos, or articles from different authors, with the community's favourite being most prominent.
The aim of Medium is to evolve blogging beyond where it is today. The makers claim that most attempts to create new forms of blogging have ended up dumbing down the author or the interaction, Medium attempts to reverse that trend.
Visually it has a grid like format, not dissimilar to Pinterest, and is clean and contemporary, without being too dateable. Whether this changes as Medium grows is still up in the air, with the founders of Medium quite clear that this is a work in progress.
You can explore for yourself on the Medium website.
What's the point?
A lot of people will ask "Why do we need more social networking sites?" and that is a very valid question. The truth is that we don't actually need any more, but then social networking was never about 'need' and has always been about 'want'. If Branch and Medium do grow and become influential players in the social network scene then people will jump on board whether they have any reason to or not.
They do appear to be quite similar, and until they develop they will continue to share the same space, however this should not come as a surprise as both have been developed from the same philosophy of intelligent networking. I have no doubt that once content has been created they will start to define their own paths.
I personally think that these will be successful if they can market it appropriately to a more intellectually-inclined audience, and if they can get successfully encourage a more academic userbase to become prolific on these platforms. I see them as a written, more interactive version of TED.com, a place where truly interesting views are shared and respected. For journalists and writers these could be great places to share thoughts and discern the prevailing mood of the day, but in truth the only way they will be successful is if culture embraces them. For that to happen, they need people to talk, and in this day and age there's really only one place to do that: Twitter. Given the heritage, I think Branch and Medium might just have a head-start...