Dear Medium: Please stop hurting the web

A few minutes ago I was about to quote and link to a blog article on my personal journal, which, like this blog, is a self-hosted WordPress site. WordPress provides a very handy “Press This” bookmarklet, which makes it easy to quickly populate a new post with a quote, a title, a link back, and (optionally) an image.

Unfortunately, unlike the vast majority of sites on the Web, Press This doesn’t seem to work on Medium articles. Using “Press This” on a Medium page just brings up a bunch of blank fields. Apparently, it’s more important to have reams of JavaScript to tell me that the passage I’m hovering my mouse over is the “Top Highlight” than to let me link to this article from my own blog.

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Let me be very clear: I do not care what the “top highlight” is. In fact, I actively do not want to know what the top highlight is. That kind of information encourages the meme-ification of the web, a world where we care more about pushing one sentence over the “tipping point” into virality than in carrying on a global conversation. It’s American Idol for pull quotes.

In theory, I should like Medium: it’s place to post long-form, thoughtful pieces. It has beautiful typography, and a pleasingly spare layout.

Yet, as Maciej Cegłowski noted in his brilliant talk “Web Design – The First 100 Years“, that sparse design is a bit deceptive:

It’s 2014, and consider one hot blogging site, Medium. On a late-model computer it takes me ten seconds for a Medium page (which is literally a formatted text file) to load and render. This experience was faster in the sixties.

If I click on the “top highlight” text instead of trying to select it, I get another little pop-up toolbox for annotating the post.

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If I click on the tools there, Medium tries to make me create—you guessed it—my own Medium account.

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Medium doesn’t want me to continue the conversation on my own space. They want me to add content to their own walled garden.

Recently, Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan wrote, in The Web We Have to Save (hosted, ironically enough, on Medium):

…these social networks tend to treat native text and pictures — things that are directly posted to them — with a lot more respect than those that reside on outside web pages. […] Lots of people start their daily online routine in these cul de sacs of social media, and their journeys end there. Many don’t even realize that they’re using the Internet’s infrastructure when they like an Instagram photograph or leave a comment on a friend’s Facebook video. It’s just an app.

From time to time friends ask me what they should use if they want to start blogging, and for a while I was considering adding Medium to my list of suggestions, especially for non-technical writers. But I can’t support this kind of anti-web architecture. Medium, please stop hurting the web.