Medium Launches Snapchat Stories, But for Medium

At some point in every technology’s evolution, the world settles on its Right Way To Do Stuff. Having one broadly adopted system just makes life easier, since people don’t have to learn a new language and dance routine every time they want to try something. It happened a while ago on desktop PCs, for instance: it was eventually decided that keyboards should be QWERTY, interfaces should be graphical, and things should scroll up and down.

The easiest way to explain Series is this: It’s Snapchat Stories, except they don’t expire after 24 hours and you can’t swipe down to open a link.

Right now, the same de facto standards are being nailed down on mobile. Medium’s new Series feature, which launches today, is a perfect example: as the publishing company went about trying to decide what a mobile-native way to tell and consume stories might look like, it came up with a handful of answers from all over the app universe. Series is very much a Medium product, a spare and empty place for you to fill with text and images, but there’s a dash or two each of Instagram, Snapchat (more like five or six dashes of Snapchat), Periscope, Twitter, even news apps. Medium took all the things that work about interacting on a touch screen, and put them into a single product.

The easiest way to explain Series is this: It’s Snapchat Stories, except they don’t expire after 24 hours and you can’t swipe down to open a link. Also you can’t do any of the fun things you can do in Stories. When you’re reading a Series, you click from one screen to the next by tapping on the right or swiping right to left. Some pages have big titles, some have pullquotes, some have a paragraph or two of text. Some have an image you can see all at once, or one you have to tilt your phone back and forth to see in its entirety. If you stop reading in the middle, you’ll drop in where you left off next time. When you get to the end, there’s a page for you to tap and send clap emojis to express your appreciation for the story.

For Medium, Series is a way to encourage users to create stories that unfold over time. “We wanted to build that continuity, and the update loop, right into the product,” says product1 manager Katie Zhu. Rather than write the first draft of your self-help novel, or expound on why you’re leaving New York, Series could let you keep a public travel journal, or chart your progress toward a goal. (One series Zhu likes involves a guy training to be able to dunk a basketball, documenting his struggle along the way.) And you don’t have to do it all at once, or awkwardly link together a bunch of individual Medium posts. People can subscribe to your Series, and be notified whenever there’s an update.

It’s not coincidence that Series’ debut comes soon after CEO Ev Williams admitted

Just as nobody could have known Medium would become The Official Platform of Corporate In-Fighting, even the company itself doesn’t seem to know what’ll happen with Series. For now, the feature’s limited, which seems to be both by design and a consequence of Medium’s rush to get Series out as fast as possible. It’s also a bit buggy, at least in the beta stages, but Medium says it’s cleared that up for launch. You can’t draw on the screen, which seems like a natural mobile-first feature; you can’t flip your phone to see a photo or video in landscape. You can create a Series on a desktop PC, but you can’t view one there. You can’t even see one in your phone’s browser—you’ll just get a link to open or download the app. All Zhu would say about that decision was, “We’re really excited about doing this on mobile,” and that there are no imminent plans to bring the experience to desktop. Which is fine, and probably says something about Medium’s traffic sources.

Medium found success by offering a platform that was like blogging, but simpler, and simply let you write without worrying about all the ancillary work. Series has a higher bar to clear, since Instagram and Snapchat already offer simple and fun ways to share stories over time. Medium does have one distinct advantage, though: The Stories format might be universal, but only on Medium do they stick around.

1UPDATE: An earlier version of this story misstated Katie Zhu’s title.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/2017/03/medium-series/