Me.dium Funding, Photos, Studies, and Patents

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“Me.dium gets new funding, should use it to start over”:http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/medium_collaborative_browsing.php – I tried Me.dium twice when it was in beta, and both times ended up uninstalling it. There simply wasn’t enough value to it. Part of this was that there weren’t enough people using it(as of now, “20,000 *registered* users”:http://gigaom.com/2007/06/11/medium-raises-immense-amount-of-funding/, according to co-founder David Mandell), and there was no easy way of finding where everyone was. The other part is that I don’t think Me.dium is the best solution for any of the problems they’re trying to solve:
* “You and your friend are trying to accomplish a common task”. How does a browser plugin that lets me a) see where my friend is, and b) chat, accomplish this any better than an IM conversation where we send each other links? It’s simpler, most IM clients support logging so our collaboration is saved, and it keeps me from being distracted by the unimportant sites a friend browses until he messages me with an important one.
* “You are trying to do something on your own and meet others who are trying to do the same thing”. Forums, chat rooms, social networks, a site’s own social features: there are dozens of better ways to accomplish this more easily with fewer privacy concerns.
* “You are observing the patterns of crowds nearby and so you are able to discover new things.” There’s far, far too much noise in people’s browsing habits for you to be able to outmatch the performance of a simple search for similar sites. Other tools solve the “discover new things” problem with much less effort. StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, etc.

Finally, I really don’t think what Me.dium is doing should be classified as “collaborative browsing”. The only collaboration Me.dium offers right now is a poorly implemented universal-chat room. Where are sharing features? Users can’t even tell which parts of a page other people are finding so interesting. How can we gather crowds to a site, and what can we really *do* once we get there?

GigaOm quotes Mandell as saying the funding is for more infrastructure, because “managing and making recommendations based on the real-time activity of everyone online actually uses a lot of hardware and engineering”. Sounds like a massive scaling problem waiting to happen. Me.dium is better off taking the $15,000,000 and hiring some good product designers.

“Pixsy partners with Photobucket”:http://www.socialcomputingmagazine.com/viewcolumn.cfm?colid=320 – Flickr may have captured the conciousness of the digerati, but Photobucket is still the main player in the mainstream. A year ago, “Photobucket had 43% of photo-sharing market share”:http://weblogs.hitwise.com/leeann-prescott/2006/06/photobucket_leads_photo_sharin.html, compared to Flickr’s 5.95%. That’s certainly risen since Yahoo! Photos is sending it’s 18.27% to Flickr, but Photobucket has no doubt been growing as well. It continues to make big moves, first “being bought by MySpace(News Corp.)”:http://gigaom.com/2007/05/30/acquisition-wednesday-photobucket-flektor-lastfm/, and now partnering with a search/distribution platform.

Next step: tighter integration with MySpace for better social features, giving MySpace a second ’social object’. Instead of just music, pictures as well.

“Communispace Study: Active communities = active customers”:http://www.communispace.com/3_news/press_releases/pr_061107.asp – I’ll put this together in one long, chopped up and rebuilt quote:

“The research […] analyzed activity in 84 private, branded online communities, suggests that companiesí interests are best served when they enable customer-to-customer dialogue and activities, but donít try to control or limit them. […] When customers initiate the conversation they say more and contribute more often over time. On average, members generated nearly half (44.1%) of all activities on the community […] The more people “own” the community, the more they talk with the sponsoring company […] a financial services community with a 58.9% ownership rate averages 78.7 contributions per client-generated activity, while a comparable community with 38.9% ownership averages only 56.6 contributions per client-generated activity.”

“Location-based search: patented?”:http://www.wired.com/politics/law/news/2007/06/location_patent – A man is saying he owns the idea of online searches based on zip code, and is suing Verizon. The patent was filed in 1996, but I still think the idea of saying, “I own the idea of putting the Yellowpages online” is idiotic. It’s like if someone had tried to patent writing in a journal… online. Verizon and it’s spinoff Idearc Media are the only ones being sued so far, but I would expect Google, MSN, and almost every other company with a “local search” feature to have an interest in this case.

“A Patent Lie”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/09/opinion/09lee.html?ex=1339041600&en=a2f3d8f1f3cfcb61&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss – As a bonus, here’s an article arguing that stockpiling patents stifles innovation, and Bill Gates agrees. He just won’t admit it because now he’s doing it too.