Everything’s a messaging app now! Potluck, the link-sharing service from the team behind the social conversation service Branch, began as a simple tool allowing users to share their interesting findings from around web with a community where the focus was not on the people doing the sharing, but rather on the content. Today, with the release of Potluck version 2.0, the app is transforming itself into a hybrid messaging and news service, where people comment around topics they want to discuss.
That’s not entirely different from Potluck’s core idea – that, according to the Internet’s 1 percent rule, only a small minority will activity participate in content creation, so Potluck wanted to become the network for the majority of the so-called “lurkers.” In its original version, a smaller number of people would post a link, and a larger number of people would then like or comment on that link. From a high-level, this experience hasn’t changed much with version 2.0. It’s still very much about link-sharing and comments from the crowd.
But what has changed is the user interface, which now feels more messaging-like. As Branch CEO and co-founder Josh Miller explains today, in the updated app, conversations are based around topics, not people. That is, he says, “instead of tapping on the names of your roommates or co-workers to start talking, you tap on topics that you’re interested in — such as ‘Banksy’s NYC residency,’ or ‘Eminem’s new album.'”
He says that the earlier version of the app had a very engaged, core community, but it wasn’t growing very fast. “Each spend an average of 7.5 minutes on the site every time they visit, and our most addicted users visit something like eight times per day,” Miller tells us.
This shift in design puts Potluck in a category where it’s trying to carve out a niche for itself that sits somewhere in between a social news site like Digg or Reddit, and a mobile messaging app like Whatsapp. But at the end of the day, the service it may have to compete with most is Twitter. On Twitter, users often do post links, and others reply to them with their short comments. In fact, Twitter recently even experimented with how to better highlight these conversations by introducing a blue line (now gray) which reversed the network’s default reverse chronological order, much to users’ dislike.
But on Potluck, there isn’t a limitation in how many characters you can type, and users’ avatars are smaller – the thing that draws you in is the story, not the person sharing it.
Perhaps Potluck better described, then, as a product that falls in the middle of the spectrum between Twitter, and a more robust blogging platform like Medium – a product, like Branch, which was backed by Twitter founders’ incubator The Obvious Corporation, before the creators decided it would take a back seat to the individual projects it had funded.
POTLUCK TAKES ON CIRCA, ADDS ORIGINAL CONTENT
The other major change in Potluck 2.0 is original content created by the team at Branch. This is, perhaps, the bigger shift in focus. Similar to a news app like Circa, the team will be sharing short summaries of news articles and other topics, designed to take no more than 20 seconds to read. In fact, it might even be a shorter blip of news than what you would find on Circa, as Potluck’s version of the news is only three slides deep.
The slides, or cards, are inspired by Tinder, Miller says, who heard from friends that the dating app was cited as their favorite in terms of the navigation. Today, the new version of Potluck lets you swipe through a stack of cards, and tapping on each one will reveal the content (the summary behind the headline), and the conversation where you can comment if you choose. Articles can also be skipped, or kept by clicking an “X” or heart icon, respectively – sort of like a “hot or not” for news.
The potential for the data gathering based on what people like, skip or click through to could hint at where Potluck could go next, with more personalized news recommendations. But that’s not something that’s a part of today’s release, to be clear.
It will be interesting to see if Potluck can find room for itself by borrowing so many of the better ideas from a range of services, from messaging and news apps, and combining those with best-of-breed design ideas.
You can grab the updated Potluck app here.