Me.dium Social Browsing

Play Me.dium Social Browsing
Sign in to queue

Description

Me.dium is a social browsing addon that makes web browsing similar to hanging out in the real world.  I've been using it for awhile and it's pretty cool.  For example, when the San Franciso earthquake happened last week I wasn't looking at twitter, but I saw the news bubble up in me.dium as I browsed other sites.  Last month they obtained an additional $15 million funding, and continue to add new features.  Readers of MIX Online can get a recent build for IE7 (works on Vista inside "protected mode") at http://me.dium.com/ie7.  You can download a version for Firefox as well.

Since it's hard to visualize without seeing a demo, I recorded a demo and interview with David and Tobias from me.dium.com.  After the demo, we discuss some of the story of how the company formed and how they compare to other social networking alternatives.

Here is a transcript of the interview:

Joshua Allen: Hi, it's Joshua with MIX Online. And I'm here with David and Tobias
from Me.dium. Me.dium is this really cool social browsing
utility. And I've been working with you guys for a number of months
on this. So, we wanted to let our audience see what you guys have
been up to and have a demo of the product. So first, David, you
want to tell us about what you do at Me.dium?

David Mandell: Sure. So, I'm one of the cofounders and VP of Marketing, and
obviously been involved from the start making sure the look and
feel is there, our messaging is right, and we try to communicate
revealing the hidden world of people and activity every way we
possibly can.

Joshua: Cool, and Tobias?

Tobias Peggs: Yup, Tobias Peggs. I'm Business Development Director at Me.dium. I
have my own relationship with Microsoft. And today I'm demo boy.

Joshua: OK. So, go ahead and set the context. And then we'll just jump
right into a demo so people can understand, because it's kind of
hard to visualize what this is about until people see it.

David: Sure. So, what Me.dium is trying to do is reveal the hidden world
of people and activity behind your browser. What we mean by that is
in the real world all the people and activity around you constantly
affect your behaviors and decisions.

For example -- and I guess we'll use a music example here -- you're
going to a great outdoor music festival: several different bands
playing at once on different stages. You walk in. And as you walk
in you notice all the different stages.

And one of the stages is a band that's jammed, crowded with people.
And they're jumping and dancing away and a lot of energy going on.
There's a second stage with not a lot of people there, just kind of
quiet music. Nothing really interesting going on.

And then you see a third stage down at the other end of the field,
where three of your friends are standing and watching the band,
three people you respect and have similar music interests that you
do.

Whatever you do next, wherever you go, is completely dependent on
seeing all those people and their activity.


David: All right. Online you're completely alone, right? If you wanted to
try and do the same thing online, you might go to a Live Spaces
page about Battle of the Bands. And you could call up an MP3, or go
to a band's MySpace page, or their home page, or their Live Spaces
page, and you can sit and listen to the music, but it's inherently
different experience. It's just you and the page.


David: Being around people changes everything. So, you know when you're
online there's a lot of other people out there trying to do similar
things, but you never had access to that world before.


David: So, that's where Me.dium comes in. What Me.dium does is Me.dium
reveals the hidden world of people and activity behind your
browser.

Joshua: OK. So, it looks like what we're looking at right now is the Battle
of the Bands website here on Live Spaces pulled up. And so, do you
want to talk a little bit about what's happening here on the
screen?

David: Sure. So, you can see Tobias here is on the Battle of the Bands
page.

Joshua: Yup.

David: And as he's opened up Me.dium, it's opened up a map next to the
page. And what the map is showing you, right now all in real time,
are all the other people out there that are doing similar things to
you and the pages that they're currently on, all in relation to
you. So, in essence, this is now your view into your real-time
online world for the first time. And as I mentioned, since it's
real time, as people move and they change focus, your map will
update and change focus as well.

So, you can see Tobias is represented as the orange icon. I should
actually point down here. So, you can see he's sitting on the Live
Spaces page right there.


David: Blue people that he sees on the map are people that he does not
know, just other Me.dium users, but Me.dium has determined are
relevant to what he's doing. And yellow people are people that are
on Tobias' friend list. So, in essence, people that he does know.

Joshua: OK, great.

David: So, again now, what we're showing you for the first time is your
online world, your real-time online world. You can bump into your
friends. You can be influenced by the activity of the crowd. And
you can discover new things based on the activity of people
relevant to you.

Joshua: OK. So, some of these people up here, say the person in blue,
what's that showing?

David: Right. So, there's one person that we don't know right now who
happens to be on a Facebook page. See, if Tobias mouses over that
page, you'll get a little more information on the page. And if
Tobias clicks there, he'll actually go over to the page that person
was on. So, he's looking at a Facebook profile. And Tobias will
need to login to see where that is.

Joshua: OK.

David: But, in essence now, this is how you navigate in real time in that
online world. So, each resource that you see in that map is either
a person that's relevant to you or a page that's relevant to you
based on the activity of those people.

Joshua: OK, that's very cool. So, I noticed that the icons there kind of
shifted around once he navigated to that page.

David: Sure.

Joshua: Does that show that the people that are kind of hanging around this
page are different than the people at the previous?

David: Sure. So as you move, as your attention or activity shifts online,
your relevancy changes to the rest of the Me.dium world.

Joshua: OK.

David: So, Me.dium is constantly updating relevant people and pages to you
based on your activity. And it's all real time, so you'll see it
change in real time as you move and as other people move, you'll
see them come in and out of focus.

If one of your friends happens to pop in to a similar site, you'll
bump into them. Again, like you would in the real world. Let's just
say you are at the mall doing some shopping and a friend of yours
was in a different aisle down in the store. You can bump into them
in a store. Now you can actually bump into them online as well.

Joshua: OK, cool. So, it looks like Tobias is messaging with a friend now?

David: Yes. So, once we actually show you that world, what would you want
to do next? Right, you want to interact.

Joshua: Yup.

David: So, on top of the visualization of your online world there, what we
give you is a communication platform, right? And we let you
communicate in several different ways. The first thing we do is we
let you, in essence now, ask a quick question or shout-out to
relevant community.

So, for example, let's again, let's go back to the real world.
Let's say you were going away with your girlfriend or your wife and
you're trying to... I assume your girlfriend or wife. I don't want
to get you in trouble, right? [laughs]

Joshua: My wife, yeah. [laughs]

David: Your wife. Forget the girlfriend thing. And you guys were going on
vacation to some place that you've never been before and you want
to do some research ahead of time. So, in the real world you'd
probably go to the bookstore, go to the travel section.

David: And maybe there's a space on the shelves there all about that
country where you were going. And maybe you noticed two or three
other people looking at books similar to what you are, right? You
have no idea who those people are. They're complete strangers. But
because you are in relevant contextual space, you probably wouldn't
hesitate to ask a quick question.


David: "Excuse me. I noticed you were looking at the same geography. We're
going there for the first time. Do you have any recommendations?"
Or, "We're thinking about this hotel. Do you know anything about
it?" Right?

Joshua: This actually raises an interesting question in my mind, which is
we see some of these users on the screen here in the blue, which
means that they're people who aren't necessarily on the friends
list.

David: Right.

Joshua: And the one was looking at the Facebook page. Now, is this
something that people can opt-in to allow you to know that they're
looking at that page or happen to be in that same context?

David: Right, so great question. First of all, Me.dium is completely opt-
in. So, it's you have to choose to use it, to be in part of the
Me.dium world. The second thing that is very important is Me.dium
takes your privacy very seriously.

So, in essence, what you are doing is you're sharing your activity
with the Me.dium world. And Me.dium looks at it from the
perspective that your attention or your activity is actually your
asset, right? So, you are the one that should be able to decide
who, when, and where you want to share that asset to gain value.

And we let you manage that in several ways. The first thing that
you'll notice is, at any point in time, you can adjust what we call
your anonymity. So, while you're using Me.dium, you can be visible
to everybody, which means wherever you go people can see your
username, so they know in essence that it's you.

You can be visible to just your friends, which means people that
are not on your friends list would just see you as an anonymous
blue user. People that are on your friends list would see you as a
yellow user and see your username. So in essence now you can bump
into your friends. Or you can be completely anonymous.

So, at any point in time, you can get all the value that you want
from seeing all the people and activity, but do it in a way that no
one knows it's you. You're completely private and anonymous. And
so, in essence you're adding value to the Me.dium community because
they see a person, but they have no way of determining that it's
you.

In addition, what Me.dium lets you do is with an easy click of the
button at any point you can turn Me.dium on or off. All right? So,
you see Tobias hits the button up there: sharing with Me.dium is
off. It's like you never installed it as far as your activity. You
can go browse, do whatever you want. You're not sharing any
information.

Joshua: So, using the bookstore analogy, he's basically just become
invisible while he's standing there browsing books.

David: Exactly. He's all of a sudden disappeared, whereas if he was just
anonymous, he'd be a person, but no one would know who he was.

Joshua: Very cool.

David: Right. But even when you're anonymous we still give you the ability
to interact with people on your friends list.

Joshua: Cool.

David: Right. But going back to that kind of talk tab I was showing you
before. So, Me.dium now gives you the ability -- wherever you are
online, whatever you're trying to do -- to ask a quick question.

Joshua: And this is basically just a shout to whoever is in that little
circle up there.

David: It's a shout to everyone that Me.dium considers relevant to you
right now based on your activity. So, going back to that bookstore
analogy, there are people doing similar things, right?

Joshua: Yup.

David: So, why not ask a quick question? And you can engage in that
community in a completely anonymous way if that's how you prefer to
do it. So, you can ask an anonymous question. You can get answers
from anonymous people. If that conversation persists and it turns
into an interesting conversation...

Again, go back to the bookstore and you ask the person do they know
anything about that hotel. "Oh, by the way, we're going there too."
And that conversation goes down. You have similar interests. You
are both going to the same place. You can now actually make
friends. You can request friendship with people that you meet in
Me.dium. So now you're bumping into people and making friends with
relevant people wherever you go.

Joshua: Very cool. So, the icons along the right-hand bar there. What's
that showing?

David: Sure, so that's very exciting. So what Me.dium is doing here is
similar to a standard chat line, you have your buddy list.

David: And you can see if your friends are online or offline. If they're
yellow, they're online. Down at the bottom if they are grey, they
are offline. I'm sorry. Yellow they're online. Grey, offline.

But in addition, what Me.dium is doing now, is actually bringing
location along with that buddy list. So, Tobias can now page
through his buddy list. He can see where all of his friends are if
they're sharing with him. Again, it's completely up to their...

They are in complete control of their location, but if they choose
to share with Tobias, at any point Tobias can go down his list and
say, "Hey, here's my friend Dean. I wonder where he is." You can
click there. You can see he's now sitting exactly on the same page
as Dean is. Dean sees that Tobias is now on his space. And this is
just like, again, you're actually browsing together.

And if Dean sends a chat to Tobias, his location is brought along
with that chat. And Dean can see that location. That location
persists as the chat continues. So, now we're adding context to
conversation. In essence they are truly browsing together for the
first time.

Joshua: Wow.

David: There's no need to cut and paste URLs to email them back and forth.
As the conversation goes on, the locations are brought together.
And they are truly browsing together.

So again, let's go back to the real world. You're here at work, and
your wife is at home, and you are planning your vacation. You're
both using Me.dium. You're researching a hotel, wherever you want
to go. You can simply shoot a note to your wife and say, "Hey, have
you seen this place? This looks great." She sees exactly what
you're looking at. She can go there. She can reply, "No. You know
what? I don't like that. I like this better."

All right, so now you're having a conversation just like you would
in the real world in a contextual space. And you know exactly what
each other is talking about. And you are truly browsing together
for the first time.

Joshua: Wow. That's awesome. So, we're seeing this now on IE. And I
understand that the IE plugin is launched. I understand you support
some other browsers as well?

David: Right. So, we are compatible right now with Firefox, and Flock, and
now we are very excited about IE. And want to make sure we put a
lot of effort into maintaining all the privacy and security that
was already built into the IE and Vista platform. So, we are very
excited about pushing it out.

Joshua: Yeah. And I know, having worked with your guys over the past six
months, that getting this working on Internet Explorer, especially
with the added security features in Vista, hasn't been easy. But
there's the market share and having an application that's taking
data from the Internet and so on. There are potential concerns
there. And it's nice to be able to run that within the Vista
sandbox.

David: Yeah, it was definitely worth the effort from a lot of different
reasons. Obviously the market share is one. But also, again,
Me.dium is really a contextual shift for people, right? It's being
around people online for the first time.

And it's critical that they understand that their privacy and
security is protected in that environment, that they are in
control, that there's nothing that they don't know about going on.
And so, it is definitely worth the effort.

Joshua: Cool. So, are there any other features that you really want to show
off here? I noticed that the Brassheart guy on your friends list is
logged in. And you know what he's up to.

David: The way we like to look at it is you don't have to change any of
your habits to use Me.dium, but once you use Me.dium, a lot of your
habits change, right? Because it opens up a whole new level of
possibilities. Once you're actually in that environment there are a
lot of different things that you could do.

So, one of the great things about it is now you're actually getting
a real-time view into where your friends are. Down the right-hand
side of that sidebar there you can see as new friends come on or
friends go off. You can see when they're popping in or popping off.
You can see where they are.

If all of the sudden five or six of those icons become the same
favicon, I all of the sudden know that, "Wait a minute. A bunch of
my friends are going someplace." Something is going on, right? I
want to check it out. So now I'm being influenced by the crowd.


David: Or I'm discovering new content just based on the activity of the
crowd.

Joshua: It's kind of like watching some flash mobs as they happen.

David: Exactly. It's like walking down the street, right? And all of a
sudden six people run into a store. You may have had no desire at
all to go to that store, but because you saw a bunch of people run
into it, you may want to check it out.

So again, it's about bringing that social and contextual value that
you get in the real world into your online experience for the first
time.

And you mentioned Brassheart before. He's actually a great user. We
found that a lot of our users are turning into what we call "media
maniacs." Again, still, we've been private beta for a long time so
it's a fairly small and close-knit community, but a lot of the
people that are using it use it fanatically. And we're just
thrilled.

And they're actually taking it on themselves to create new logo
designs, new identity buttons to put on websites, or nice mugs we
use in the office. But it's really wonderful to see the energy
going on in the community around Me.dium and how its use is
changing the way they surf.

Joshua: Yeah, I found this fascinating that this guy built up friends
within the Me.dium community, and that spilled over into his blog,
and into creating this blog bling where he pulls that community
even outside the context of Me.dium.

David: Yeah. It's very exciting. And they're asking for it. So, they see
some of the designs that he does, and now everyone wants them for
their page.

Joshua: Yeah.

David: But he's able to meet those people and create that community
because of Me.dium, right? Because he's meeting them as he surfs.

Joshua: Very cool.

David: Right. And as they look at relevant things and similar issues,
they're making friends. It's great for the music space, right? I
bump into people that like similar music, similar music tastes than
I do. I discover new bands and new interests. Something exciting is
going on news-wise I didn't know about. All of the sudden I see a
flash mob. I check it out. And I learn things, right?

So again, it's about bringing all those cues -- all those social
and contextual cues that you get in the real world -- into your
online experience for the first time. You've been alone online for
too long, right?

Joshua: And this is something that seems like as users use this more, it
would tend to become adopted more, and give more value to them as
well. That is the more you use it, the more intelligence it has
about what's relevant to you.

David: Exactly. It is an algorithm and it is learning. And as more and
more people use it, it gets smarter and much more relevant and
specific, right? And as larger numbers of people use it, the areas
of interest become much more focused, and much more relevant to
what you're doing.

Joshua: You had an interesting story about
how the product came about. And I think it's really relevant to
this. So, do you want to talk a little bit about how you guys had
the idea and how it developed into this?

David: Sure. So, Me.dium actually started life as an enterprise
application. And it was focused specifically around content and
knowledge management within an enterprise. So, in essence, who in
my company is doing similar things, working with similar content.
Who else in my company should I know about, based on my actions and
activities?

And the dilemma had always been (that) to create that value within
the enterprise, there's a lot of effort on the part of the user.
You had to tag documents, create taxonomies, create relevant
information that people could search on in essence to discover
connections.

So, the way the software approached it was the user shouldn't have
to do anything differently. It should be built into the background
of the application. And the content with which they are working
should in essence become the connection.

Joshua: Yes.

David: Right. And so, it was we thought quite an elegant solution, but on
the enterprise side, that sales cycle is extremely long. Trying to
sell into large companies as a small software business is extremely
difficult.

Joshua: Yeah, and you're talking 5,000 to 10,000 users, you know?

David: Yeah, and not only that, you get six or eight months down the road
with one person in a company. They end up getting relocated or
fired. And now you're back at ground zero, right? So, it's not an
easy sales process. And we were looking for some way to help that
process.

And so we actually created a consumer application that we thought
would help us build some brand awareness, and gain some exposure,
and help us sell into the enterprise. And what happened is the more
we looked at the consumer application, the more we realized it was
much more valuable and much more exciting than the enterprise
application.

Joshua: And this is what the Internet was invented for.

David: Exactly.

Joshua: To connect people, right?

David: And that's really what it's about. It's about who out there matters
and when in real time. And I shouldn't have to do anything
differently to get it. I shouldn't have to tag things. I shouldn't
have to create taxonomies. I should just be able to do what I
normally do and get access to all those people in real time while
I'm doing whatever I normally do.

Joshua: Yeah, so you mentioned that it was a couple of years ago that you
made that switch and realized that this is where it's at on the
Internet. And I know you guys have gotten another big round of
funding recently. You've been getting great adoption. And really
the whole space is kind of blowing up. You've got Facebook and
MySpace. And MySpace just launched their IM client and so on.

So, how do you see this kind of functionality fitting in with stuff
that Facebook, or MySpace, or even fitting in with some of the
broader utilities, the wider set of utilities that people use for
social browsing or social networking?

David: Sure. So, we actually think it's a perfect compliment to all of
those things. We don't see it as competitive at all. We see it as a
way of complimenting everything you do online. And if we go back to
revealing that hidden world -- the people and the activity behind
the browser -- think of that from a social network perspective.

So, you're on Facebook. All of a sudden you can now see who else is
on your profile. You can see what other profiles they're looking at
in relation to yours. You can see where you friends are. Are your
friends looking at another one of your friend's profile? You can go
over and join them, right?

Joshua: Yeah.

David: So, in essence, it's all about, again, bringing that real world
content into your online experience, whatever you're doing online.
So, fantastic tool for complimenting the social network platform
where virtually anything else you happen to be doing at the time.
It's adding that whole people dimension for the first time to your
online experience. It's not about you and a web page anymore.

David: It's about being around people. And being around people changes
everything.

Joshua: Awesome. So, if people want to try this out, or if they're
interested, what do you tell them?

David: Sure, so it's open for download now. Again, up until very recently
we were private beta. So, we can certainly use some more users, and
more testers, and all the feedback you can give us. Just go to
me.dium.com. So, me.dium with a dot between the E and the D, because
remember it's all about me.

David: So, download Me.dium. Give it a shot. And again, meet new people,
give us input, be influenced by the crowds, discover new content,
and surf together for the first time.

Embed

Download

Download this episode

The Discussion

Add Your 2 Cents