Ev Williams has played a large part in the way we Internet now: piecemeal content sluicing through your feed, hoping for your clicks, and falling into oblivion.
What hand did he have? Williams founded Blogger back in 1999–a platform that helped people publish these things called weblogs–and seven year later cofounded Twitter, which, get this, was like Facebook but anyone could see what you had to say.
With Medium, as he explains to This Week In Startups, Williams wants to change the structure of the web once again–and the kind of content it publishes and promotes.
As Gawker recently noted, this is “great news for writers.”
“What’s the Internet good at?” Williams asks. “Lowering cost of distribution and increasing speed is one thing, we’ve kinda done that. Let’s work on the other things.”
Williams himself tried on things other than publishing: He was a big part of Obvious Corp., the incubator he co-founded with fellow Twitter alums Biz Stone and Jason Goldman, though he now spends “99 percent” of his time on Medium–and TechCrunch reports that 30 Obvious employees are now working on Medium full-time. Williams also hired former Wired editor Evan Hansen and acquired long-form journalism workshop Matter.
He says that since we–though really he could say “I”–have organized the web to always put the new things on top, that rewards a peculiar type of content (such as conversational reblogs like this). The reward structure as we have it now encourages high-frequency, low-cost content chasing pageviews and unique visitors rather than investing in a single article–a dilemma poignantly articulated by Atlantic editor Alexis C. Madrigal back in March.
“We can do better,” Williams says–Medium is his bid to do that. As we’ve previously reported, instead of sending the newest content to the top of the page, Medium uses a Reddit or Digg-style upvoting system to help the best articles rise to the top.
Medium, then, isn’t a firehose platform for sharing short bursts of the latest information–Twitter has that covered–but rather an environment for longer-form pieces. A system that, as Williams himself as written, optimizes for quality rather than popularity. Williams believes a market opportunity will eventually follow.
“It’s not too late,” Williams writes, “to rethink how online publishing works.”
Bottom Line: The way people use the Internet is far from established–the right product can change it.
[Image: Flickr user Ingrid Taylar]