Medium has spent the nearly 3 years since it launched trying to decide whether it was a platform for writers or a publisher in its own right (this is why it was snarkily nicknamed a platisher). After last week, I would say that it has finally decided that it is a platform.
This minimalist blogging platform has taken a step to emphasize those who publish on the platform over the platform itself. Last week it started testing custom domain names, enabling publications to put their brand or name in the URL.
This feature, which WordPress.com and other blog platforms have offered for years, is being tested by four lucky launch partners: New America, Midcentury Modern, Substance, and The Nib. Those 4 publishers can now enjoy all the benefits of using Medium to host their articles while also using a custom domain to express their brand identity.
While this doesn't sound like much, having the option of pointing visitors to aRealSite.com rather than www.medium.com/@SomeUser/publications changes the way a reader perceives the legitimacy and seriousness of the source. One is a publication, while the other is just a hobby.
I don't have any information yet on when the beta group will expand, but I'd expect other well known sites to be added soon. Unfortunately, the feature won't be extended to include user profiles.
Do you know what I find most interesting about this?
This is the second change in as many months where Medium has put the users' interests ahead of the features it wants and needs in a platform. Medium doesn't need or want custom domains, but publishers do. Similarly, Medium redesigned its site last month in order to make it friendlier to short off-the-cuff posts favored by some bloggers - the type of posts which Medium (as a publisher) generally avoids.
What do you think they'll do next?