Branch sounds neat

Branch, a new social startup, just came out of beta today. Promising "A new way to talk to each other," the startup is incubated by Obvious Corporation, the "mini-accelerator" from Twitter's Biz Stone, Ev Williams and Jason Goldman. Here's an example of what they have in mind.

One of the things Twitter doesn't do very well is foster actual conversations between people. One could say that this is, in fact, the great shortcoming of our time on the internet: comment systems, Facebook, Google Plus, all fall short. Branch looks like it's trying to tackle that problem. More power to 'em.

Coverage today: TechCrunch, The Next Web, VentureBeat, GigaOm.



  1. What makes this different? The talking points in the videos sound like great marketing, but is this really anything other than some me-too start-up?

    I tried to follow Xeni’s example link, but it apparently requires a Twitter account?

      1. Ours is better, because it goes up to eleven!  

        Now type your Twitter login and password into this window we’re claiming is OAuth, so we can do arbitrary things with it!  Kthx!

        I’ve already got real Twitter, and says they’re a better Twitter-like thing (which, as with Facebook, Diaspora, and G+, depends on whether all the cool kids and your friends also go there.)

        Right now if I want really good conversation on the net, there are some blogs with comments moderated by people who are good at building community, some of whom also or used to moderate here.  And other places on the web have different approaches to community and conversation, some of which are also valuable for me.  I spent about 6 months using Facebook, and now I log on to it briefly maybe every few months.  On the other hand, I got dragged into Twitter because friends of mine used it to organize an event, and it keeps my ADD in check by providing new shiny distractions every few minutes (oh, wait, that probably isn’t actually a good thing, but it is really effective.  And it tends to be good for short conversations with pointers to longer conversations over on other sites, as well as interesting articles.)

  2. Meh. No text-based service can actually deliver the “conversations” they are touting in their video.

    In fact, no asynchronous experience at all can replicate a conversation over coffee, or in the car, or even on the phone.

    So, yea….it’s just a clique for the cool kids who are getting tired of the noise on twitter. Give it a year or two and klout will invade it as well and the follow bots will show up.


      1. If I’m not posting because I’m off doing something else, then it isn’t updating diddly squat. Online communication does not have the same flow as IRL communication – even if you assume breaks online would roughly be analogous to bathroom breaks in a dinner conversation. I don’t recall, did Wallace Shawn take a leak during dinner?

    1. The closest I’ve come to having real conversations in text was IRC (which is synchronous) and that took months of relationship building before anything of substance was discussed.

      The problem with “conversation” as a startup is that to have an engaging conversation, you can’t be talking to more than 1 or maybe 2 people at a time. It doesn’t scale.

      This site has little to do with the type of intimate, short-lived conversations their video promotes. It appears to be a q&a or discussion site with a cute branching mechanism for side discussions (that I haven’t seen anyone use).

      There is nothing wrong with it, but they should tone down the hype because a getting a bunch of random discussions about topics I don’t care about with people I don’t know is super disappointing.

  3. What’s to stop this from being yet another way for people to send you baby pictures and two-year-old memes?

  4. Honestly? I just want the Facebook of five or six years ago. Run by someone other than Facebook of course.

    Perhaps toss in some of the G+ organization stuff and Twitter style hashtags and location services, but basically just original Facebook. Basic posts and pictures and keeping track of friend’s info and events. Clean interface and minimal advertising.

    There has to be a way to monetize it that isn’t crazy evil and controlling. Hell, set it up right and I’m sure just selling the anonymized statistical and demographic data could pay for the hosting and a decent profit. Why must everything be pushed to the maximum level of exploitation?*

    *yes, yes, capitalism and the stock market and such.

  5. i disagree, at least as far as G+ is concerned. i’ve had (and continue to have) lots of great discussions there.

  6. “Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.”
    — Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)

  7. News flash: great discussions happen regardless of the medium. All it takes is willing participants. The problem these days isn’t the mediums available to us but rather in society’s pervasive ADD-like lack of focus.

  8. “Here’s an example of what they have in mind.”

    “To see that page, please sign in with Twitter”

    Yeah,  I’ll get right on that.


    1. I bit. All that does is let you leave your email address so they can tell you when your invite is ready. Well fuck that.

      I’m not going to allow them to update my profile and post as me just for the honor of letting them send me an email. Revoked immediately.

  9. omg how “now” can this video be?  from the mixed vintage fonts with flags behind them, through to the friendly young american man voiceover asking if you’d like him to improve your online problems but not telling you any details…  the final shot is of a comment post saying “it’s better to be wrong than to be vague”.

    i don’t mean to pee on their bonfire, i love seeing people build things as much as the next person, but tell us what it is!

  10. All I heard was blah blah blah I don’t know anything about branch but I’ll comment anyway and OMG they want me to use twitter to login that sounds like witchcraft, what are you a Dad from the 50’s, harden up.

  11. I was just thinking this morning that what the world needs is another social network.

    Especially because is only just off the running blocks.  We need another 2-week fad lined up for when that gets stale.

    1.  My thought exactly.  But hey if this one takes off, it could be the next next next next Facebook!

    2. haha – I just posted a link to, and then scrolled down to read your comment…doh!

      I like the sound of – no scummy adverts gotta be good – an sorry to facebook users but I feckin hate it.

  12. What sort of a startup name is that, Branch? They need to call their company Branchly or Branchr if they want vc money!


  13. The overwhelming trend of the net is to minimize extended interaction and maximize one shot tit for tat.  Look at how well wave and other attempts to move away from atomized communication have done.

  14. Their ‘Request Invite’ button fires up an OAuth authorization dialog box, so that I can give them permission to see everything about my Twitter account and even post tweets as me? I think not.

    That’s the Web 2.0 equivalent of showing up for a first date and asking for a blowjob before the other person has even finished introducing themselves.

  15. Places to hold discussions exist on the internet; Boing Boing comments are one place where it actually happens (though the damnable nesting limit causes issues), Reddit is another.

    The thing I’ve noticed is that when there’s a legitimate conversation that people are enjoying, it continues despite whatever technical hurdles need to be jumped – hence people endlessly replying to the same comment here once the nesting limit is reached.

    The other thing I’ve noticed is that most of the time people don’t want to have these conversations on the public internet. I’m guilty of this myself, rather frequently – I’ll post a comment here and then I don’t respond to criticisms (though if I have time I do try). I think most people are like this anyplace that’s even marginally public – Twitter, Facebook, blog comments, G+, wherever – including places in real life where you can expect to be overheard.

    Meanwhile, in-depth conversation does happen over IM and even in IRC and other chat rooms still, not to mention private message boards and the like. 

    Though over time conversations are happening more openly in public parts of the internet as people get used to it, true in-depth, intimate conversations as they’re advocating here are always going to be most prevalent in private. Part of the joy of those conversations is that you can say things and play with ideas without fear of being judged by internet assholes at large. An intimate conversation is inherently a private thing.

    All that said, I suppose providing tools intended to improve the ability to have those public internet discussions can’t be a bad thing.

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