Me.dium is a new Boulder startup with a big vision. It aims to reveal the world of people and activity behind your browser. If you’re like me, this statement will intrigue you while simultaneously leaving you wondering just what the hell such a tool would look like.
I have been playing around with the private beta of Me.dium for about two weeks now. I’ll admit that at first I didn’t get it. But just like my friend and Me.dium CEO Kimbal Musk said I would, I eventually had my a-ha moment with Me.dium. It’s just not how we’re used to thinking on the Internet, but we think this way in the real world every day.
Let me give you an an example. Every day when I walk home from work I pass a relatively new restaurant here in Boulder. I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary when I walk home, but yet I’m picking up impressions and real world data points about this restaurant. It’s always crowded. People look like they’re having a good time. The place is buzzing. I see a couple of my friends having a beer there. It must be pretty good. Maybe I’ll try it one day.
Now take that same concept and map it onto the virtual world of the Internet. But instead of just the things that you physically walk by, Me.dium is considering the virtual places you visit, and combining the concepts of attention and social networking to focus your vision. And it’s doing it side by side using a browser extension.
Back to my a-ha moment. Today I was sitting in the Me.dium office talking with Kimbal and the founders. We knew that a GigaOM post was about to come out on Me.dium and we could literally see the interest among our friends and other users who were congregating at GigaOM and the Daily Camera story that had been written earlier that day. Something must be going on over there! Aha! As we clicked on GigaOM, we could see that they had posted just moments earlier.
This has enormous potential, because if Me.dium can really figure out what people like me care about and are paying attention to, there’s a good chance I’ll want to check it out myself. It’s a social discovery mechanism similar to Digg, Reddit, or StumbleUpon but it’s quite unique in that it brings a real time input to your peripheral vision as you surf.
Naturally, any product that captures your clickstream is going to be called “creepy” by a few people. My impression from using the tool is that Me.dium has done an excellent job of thinking about these issues and adding simple to use privacy controls.
In my opinion, the major challenge that Me.dium will face will be getting users to quickly and efficiently grok the benefits of a tool like this. The current metaphor in the UI doesn’t help the situation, but to their credit the Me.dium team appears to be taking this sort of feedback quite well.
Me.dium was founded by David Mandell, Robert Reich and Peter Newcomb, who recently relocated from New York to Boulder. The company has obtained funding from sources such as Spark Capital, Appian Ventures, Brad Feld, and CEO Kimbal Musk. The company plans to do an open release by the end of the year, but current users can invite their friends and CU students with colorado.edu email addresses will be immediately accepted into the private beta.