March 24, 2015 Chris Hall

Is Medium the billionaire’s typewriter?

Is Medium the billionaire’s typewriter?

From Matthew Butterick, in an article titled, "The billionaire’s typewriter"

But un­like the Times, Medium pays for only a small fraction of its stories. The rest are sub­mit­ted—for free—by writ­ers like you. After a long time being elusive about its business model, Medium revealed that it plans to make money by—sur­prise!—sell­ing ad­ver­tis­ing. This means dis­play­ing ads, but also col­lect­ing and sell­ing data about read­ers and writ­ers. So Medium will extract rev­enue from every story, whether it paid for that story or not. (By the way, will that rev­enue be shared with writ­ers? Um, no.)

And com­ing full cir­cle—what’s the in­dis­pens­able tool for cre­at­ing this il­lu­sion of an ed­i­to­r­ial ecosystem? The ho­mo­ge­neous de­sign. The but­ter­fly bal­lot of 2000 (de­picted in why ty­pog­ra­phy matters) proved that er­rors of ty­pog­ra­phy can have his­toric con­se­quences. Medium proves that typog­ra­phy can be used as a tool of eco­nomic lever­age and control.

In truth, Medium’s main prod­uct is not a pub­lish­ing plat­form, but the pro­mo­tion of a pub­lish­ing platform. This pro­mo­tion brings read­ers and writ­ers onto the site. This, in turn, gen­er­ates the us­age data that’s valu­able to ad­ver­tis­ers. Boiled down, Medium is sim­ply mar­ket­ing in the ser­vice of more mar­ket­ing. It is not a “place for ideas.” It is a place for ad­ver­tis­ers. It is, there­fore, ut­terly superfluous.

As a writer, the state of writing on the web in 2015 is not good. That's not to say the tools for writing have dried up (there are more now than ever)—it's just that now, instead of simply writing, I have all sorts of internal issues. Who owns my content? If I don't own it, who does? Does it matter? Is "homogeneous design" something I even care about?

So here's where I'm coming from. I have a job that pays the bills, so when I want to get some thoughts into the cloud, I'm not doing it for money, I'm doing it to be a citizen in the communities I care about. As Austin Kleon says in Show Your Work!, "By generously sharing their ideas and their knowledge, they often gain an audience that they can leverage when they need it—for fellowship, feedback, or patronage." For that goal, Medium, and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, are perfect. Sure, everything you see on the page looks exactly the same—same typography, same basic structure—but it's an instant way for a writer to connect to, and discover, the people they care about. It's not that I'm lazy, or that I'm unknowingly trading my freedom to be on some Big Brother marketing platform (the billionaire's typewriter), I'm just in a place in my life where I'm happy to share my thoughts on a platform someone else has created because they've removed all the barriers and invited all my friends. It's a party I didn't have to plan... I just had to show up.

Medium, for example, has a CMS that anyone on the planet can use, and a design that certainly doesn't insult my sensibilities. Call it minimalist, homogeneous, whatever—as a writer, I can get in, write something, and send it off to my friends without worrying if it looks good or not.

My only issue with Medium is that its users are fairly anonymous. If I want to find a writer, I have to figure out what their Medium username is, then toss it to the back of the standard Medium URL. Too often, I'm just cycling through articles without ever knowing who the author is—it's just a mad shuffle of big ideas and original thoughts from people I might not ever know.

What Medium needs is custom domains. I want to be able to tell a friend to check out, not I'm far too Gen X to want to be a blatant "corporate stooge," but the Millennial in me just needs a little recognition to be appeased. Give me that level of individuality and I could care less if they leverage my writing to make some money. It wasn't written to be a profit center anyway.

In the piece linked above, Matthew Butterick paints a solid picture of why someone like himself shouldn't use Medium. He, like many, value things like site individuality and varied typography more than I do. And he may have a soapbox with Practical Typography that pays the bills and connects him to more people than I will probably ever know. But I don't think many people want to blog full-time (it's harder than many think), and they'd probably do anything to avoid having to make design decisions and worry about server costs. They just want to write somewhere their work will be read. And Medium lets them do that.

March 23, 2015 Paul Spence

A call to help Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam


For those of us who live in temperate climates, it's difficult to imagine the unfolding horror of a category 5 tropical cyclone bearing down on your home with winds exceeding 200 mph. But that was the scenario facing the inhabitants of the far flung islands of Vanuatu recently. The tiny Pacific Ocean island archipelago took a direct hit from Cyclone Pam, resulting in many villages being entirely flattened.

Incredibly and thankfully, the death toll as a result of the storm has been kept to a minimum, but a large section of the population has been left without food, water, and housing. Now a major relief operation is underway involving NGOs and neighbouring governments from the South Pacific region such as New Zealand and Australia. Technology is also playing a part in the recovery with power and communications providers rallying to get services running again quickly. We have seen encouraging reports suggesting that some progress is being made, against all odds.

It's not the first time a huge cyclone has ravaged communities in the Pacific. Typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc across the islands of the Philippines in 2013. You may recall our efforts to contribute during the Haiyan relief operation. With your help, we will be financially supporting UNICEF's operation on the ground in Vanuatu today with an immediate donation of $6,500. We are thrilled to learn that our cash will pack twice the punch because New Zealand philanthropists Gareth and Jo Morgan have agreed to match the first $1 million in donations.

iwantmyname has a longstanding policy of setting aside 10 cents from every domain registration for charitable purposes, but with the crisis being so great, we've dug a bit deeper to help out our neighbours in their time of need. If you want to make your own donation to the Vanuatu relief fund, you can do so here.

(Photo by Dave Hunt-Pool/Getty Images)

March 19, 2015 Chris Hall

The story of how Buffer bought, and why a short .com isn't necessary for startup success


From Rodolphe Dutel - Buffer:

There was a great blogpost that Joel wrote on how to name your startup, where he mentioned that the domain name of your startup doesn’t matter. In fact, thinking about Buffer’s own domain history, we originally started out with, when Joel launched Buffer in late 2010.

Joel went on to change it to, to make things more clear and worry less about not having the exact domain of your startup’s name, “Buffer” in our case. It can be a huge time-suck in the early days of your company, where your first and foremost goal should be to hit product-market fit and building something people want.

Spending time on acquiring a certain domain name could be a very futile exercise without a product that works. In fact, as Joel illustrates, most well-known companies all had “placeholder” domains for a long time before they got their actual name as their domain too:

  • Square was
  • DropBox was
  • Facebook was
  • Instagram was
  • Twitter was
  • Foursquare was

The primary point of the post is to tell the story of how Buffer acquired, but the real story to me is that while most of us aren't "generat(ing) over $5m/year," and probably don't have the time or money to pay what it would cost to get a short .com in 2015, there's no reason you can't get to that level of success with a domain name you find less than perfect. Buffer had a $60m valuation while using, and the roster of huge brands listed in the post that started with dodgy domains is pretty incredible.

If you take anything away from this, it's that the domain name you choose is only a minor piece of a very large puzzle. Before you go throwing resources at the domain aftermarket, just grab a name that fits and make your product as solid as it can possibly be. Good work attracts customers—your domain is just a sticker on the door.

March 17, 2015 Chris Hall

On the sad stagnation of Virb

On the sad stagnation of Virb

From Steve Benjamins - Site Builder Report:

The culture at Virb began to shift after the GoDaddy acquisition. There were now new bosses and new goals— but not ones that aligned with Virb’s original vision. The 4 original Virb team members decided it was time to leave.

“It was clear to me that our new leadership wanted to extract as much money from our customers as possible.” Ryan Clark, Virb’s Product Manager and Creative Director at the time says. “Our new directive was simple: revenue.”

To make matters worse, the Virb team was denied any resources. After losing the 4 original Virb team members Clark notes, “All of my requests to fill the positions disappeared in the ether of the acquisition. It seemed clear to me that GoDaddy had no intention of backing up their new goals for us with the resources to actually achieve them.”

This isn't so much an indictment of GoDaddy, as they clearly acquired Media Temple to better compete in the web hosting game (Virb just happened to be part of the deal), but it's sad to see a once-promising platform slow to a grind. As a writer who frequently uses all-in-one platforms to get ideas on the web, I've primarily moved on to Squarespace. It's fast enough, beautiful, and best of all, dead simple to use. Hopefully we'll see other hosted, all-in-one solutions take up the torch though—competition in the space is what drives innovation.

Read more →

March 11, 2015 Chris Hall

Mike Carson compiles the 1457 most popular .io domains

From Mike Carson:

Exactly one year ago today I created a list of the top .io domains. At that time there were only 676 .io domains in the top 1 million sites in the world (from Alexa). In one year that number has more than doubled to 1457.

Here's a little sample (the top 10):

  • - rank 307
  • - rank 1372
  • - rank 3161
  • - rank 3375
  • - rank 3477
  • - rank 3546
  • - rank 3637
  • - rank 4816
  • - rank 5566
  • - rank 6263

Short lists are interesting. Massive lists are amazing.

March 11, 2015 Chris Hall

Usability is something we should all be striving for

From Melody Kramer:

After we drank tea, I watched Betty read articles on her iPad. Her Internet was really slow. She kept accidentally clicking on the ads, or on parts of the story that she didn’t mean to click on. And she was getting a bit frustrated and worried — that by clicking on something, she was going to install malware or not be able to return to her story.

There are 13 million people between the ages of 75 and 84 in the US. There are 5 million between the ages of 85 and 94. (census) That population will grow. At some point, it will be composed of digital natives but that’s a while away. In the interim, are there better ways to design websites for this population? Are there better ways to design the news for them? Of course.

Like any good web entity, we're always planning for the next evolution of our website. Whether we like it or not, trends change, platforms that were built for one thing get weighed down by incremental additions, and new technologies emerge (like responsive design) that change how sites move through the world. Those things are always moving targets that need to be addressed, but one factor that cannot be overlooked, no matter when your design/redesign occurs, is usability. At the end of the day, the single most important thing you can offer is an easy path from idea to completion.

Here's a good example of where the internet is going. After I wrote our post about .money, I started looking through various finance websites. What I found didn't really surprise me, but it's worth noting nonetheless.

Read more →

March 10, 2015 Chris Hall

What should the internet do with its new .money?

Money bowtie

Money is a hard thing for a lot of people to talk about, so let's shift the focus a bit by putting a "." in front.

  • money = aghhhhhhh
  • .money = awesome!

So what should the people of the internet do with their new .money (domains... .money goes live tomorrow)? Let me count the ways.

Read more →

March 5, 2015 Chris Hall

New feature alert - domain hacks in search

work trip

In the world of domains, naming is a bit like an architecture project. The domain name has to stand on its own, make sense to those who use it, and be conventional enough to attract all types of potential guests. A standard domain name is much like a standard building—the outside can be nice, but it's really what's inside that counts.

But domain hacks are a bit different. They're the circular buildings with no conventional walls, the tiny houses that don't make sense to most, the underground mud huts that only the adventurous flock to. A domain hack will likely never be the primary domain of a multinational corporation, but for those who appreciate cultural oddities, there's simply nothing better.

So here's the deal. In our domain search, when you type in a word or brand, a single domain hack will now appear as the second result (if one is able to be made). It's nothing Earth-shattering—just a little something for your Thursday afternoon/Friday morning (depending on what side of the international date line you're on) pleasure.

March 4, 2015 Chris Hall

Price increase alert for .INFO and .MU

Heads up, folks. We're not fond of domain extension price increases, but we have two to announce, both of which affect the registration and renewal costs for the domains.

May 1, 2015 - .INFO

  • $15.50 to $16.50 USD
  • €11.90 to €12.90 EUR
  • £10.90 to £11.50 GBP
  • $19 to $19.90 AUD

April 1, 2015 - .MU

  • $99 to $119 USD
  • €89 to €129 EUR
  • $159 to $169 NZD
  • £78 to £89 GBP
  • $119 to $169 AUD

If you have any questions about the price increases, please get in touch.

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