Me.dium is a social networking tool which could transform the web browsing experience. In real time, Me.dium lets you see which sites are being visited by your friends and people with whom you share similar web browsing patterns.
When you have the tool open, you see yourself and other web surfers represented by bright colored, people-shaped icons. Each website appears as a platform of sorts on which the icons aggregate. If you are the only Me.dium user visiting a site, your icon appears alone, but, if a site is visited by many people, the url appears surrounded by a cluster of icons.
The idea is that Me.dium can make web browsing a less solitary activity. Just as you might pop into a store if you see a throng of people outside, Me.dium visually attracts you to web-locations (news stories, online stores, or blog comment threads) that might be of interest to you because they are of interest to a community of like-minded users.
The set of websites that appear in your Me.dium tool changes as you navigate from site to site, based on your browsing history. For example, if you are at the FC Blog, related sites such as FastCompany.com, Inc.com, or related blogs might appear in your Me.dium sidebar.
But, Me.dium is more than a social-recommendation engine. Users can instant message individuals or groups of individuals who are visiting a certain site. For example, if you are visiting a website that sells yoga supplies, you might ask a fellow browser about where you might find a certain kind of yoga class. Messages can be addressed to all visitors of a site or sent privately to particular individuals.
Me.dium’s CEO, Kimbal Musk, summed up the tool’s mission on the company blog:
Me.dium reveals the hidden world of people and activity behind your browser. The vision is through Me.dium, you’ll be able to access all the people out there doing the same things you are.
In October, before many people were using the tool, Om Malik said on his blog, GigaOM:
While I look forward to future implementations of things like breadcrumbs to record where you’ve been, as well as more informative visualizations, the most compelling part of Medium is social. It’s really fun to follow your friends around; for instance, this morning as I’ve been writing, a crowd gathered around a local paper’s story about Medium. I can click over to find out what the hubbub is all about. You can see how this would get a lot more fun with more people on it.
It is strangely addictive to see what sites attract a lot of people. It goes way beyond finding the “most popular” websites because you see what is popular among people who share your preferences and who are online at that exact moment. I can see the technology being very useful for a lot of different tasks. For example, if you were planning a trip with friends, instead of e-mailing them the urls of possible hotels, you could meet in Me.dium, visit sites together, and chat about them. Or, if businesses placed identifiable customer service people within the Me.dium space, customers could get their questions answered instantly and “point” to a product of interest by going to the url.
At first it seems invasive to let software follow your movements around the web. But, Me.dium can be turned off at any time with a single click and does not track movements into secure web pages such as banking sites. If they wish, users can choose to be kept anonymous or to be identifiable only to their friends.
Me.dium has been in private beta since the fall, but recently debuted publicly at the DEMO show in Palm Springs, Calif. You can see Kimbal’s demonstration online here. Although Me.dium is still not open for public registration, Fast Company readers can check it out using the invitation code FCNOW1106.
I think Me.dium offers a really innovative way to look at the web. What do you think? Is it a viable business? Would you use such a tool? How much does the privacy issue concern you?