Aug 152012
soldier pawns on a chess board

Twitter founders Biz Stone and Ev Williams can’t be accused of standing still, along with having founded the Blogger service that made creating websites easy which they sold to Google, their company Obvious Corporation has been working on various new projects.

Branch and Medium are their two latest releases.

At first glance Branch is similar to the Quora service where people ask questions and followers. While Quora is reasonably successful, it hasn’t gained traction outside of the tech community.

Medium is a new blogging service, which superficially appears similar to Tumblr or even the Blogger service Ev and Biz founded in 1999.

It’s tempting to dismiss both Branch and Medium as they aren’t doing things that are new. both are iterations of older services but that doesn’t mean they can’t succeed. When Facebook was launched there was plenty of competition in services like Friendster and MySpace, the upstart blew them both away.

The same is true of the iPod, Windows and Google – all entered markets that were already crowded and well catered for. All of them succeeded because they were better than what was on the market.

In the tech industry is that the first mover advantage is illusionary at best, unless you have a compelling position in the marketplace your product is vulnerable to a smarter, slicker upstart. This is particularly true if the existing services have serious flaws.

Should Branch avoid falling into Quora’s trap of silly policies and overzealous administrators – the same trap that doomed the open source directory DMOZ and threatens Wikipedia – then it may well succeed.

Medium could also disrupt the blogging industry, Blogger is being neglected by Google while WordPress is becoming increasingly complex and difficult to use. The success of services like Tumblr, Instagram and Posterous shows people want an easy way to publish their ideas or what they are doing onto the web.

While it’s too early to say if Branch or Medium will be a success remains to be seen, but writing them off as being unoriginal would be a mistake.

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