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It Happened on Medium: The First 10 Years

A somewhat complete history of our first decade, and the stories that got us talking, thinking, and sharing

Medium turned 10 this month. A decade ago, we built a place on the internet for stories that aren’t too long or too short, but… that in-between length. Our simple, beautiful publishing tools gave you the freedom to focus on your words, and our platform connected you with other readers, writers, and thinkers. Our goal, from the beginning, was to help you share ideas that matter.

More than 18 million posts later, we’re a little older and wiser, but we’re just as committed to our mission as we were in 2012. And, because birthdays are a time for reflection, we wanted to share a (highly incomplete) list of stories and moments readers rallied around over the last decade. You’ll find vintage screenshots, early product releases, and a few of the stories that moved us, changed us, and got us talking along the way. We hope you enjoy revisiting them as much as we enjoyed, uh, digging through old Dropbox folders and the Wayback Machine…

Our homepage on launch day.

Medium launches (in closed beta) on August 15, 2012. People are intrigued! The Verge calls Medium “grandiose” and “vague.” Nonetheless, lots of you try it out. Many of you love our simple, clean writing experience:

Also in our first year…

Medium launches publicly, ending the closed beta and welcoming anyone to write. Thousands begin publishing. We work on core features like story collections (which will evolve into publications), recommends, and private notes. The Atlantic wonders what we are.

Medium.com in August 2013.

More writers, more readers, more growth, and our first shot at in-house publications. We hone our design and typography. We build features like responses and receive some mail. We grow our internal network. Vox calls us a “platisher,” a word we don’t really have strong feelings about.

Medium surpasses 1 million posts as we launch longstanding features like highlights, mentions, and a publishing API. We begin to explore sponsored content, matching companies like BMW and Macy’s with top Medium writers. New York Magazine wonders if we can be both a tech company and a media company. It’s not the last time someone will wonder that. Also in 2015…

Medium.com in December 2015. Nice psychedelic illustration (and our old tagline).

Medium’s biggest year yet, and the first U.S. presidential election since we became an open platform. Sign-ups skyrocket as people process the lead-up to the election — and Trump’s win — on Medium. The Atlantic compares our CEO to Forrest Gump.

Medium’s logged-out homepage in 2016.

Medium makes several important changes, mostly to our business and product. The year begins with a major strategic shift: no longer focused on ads, we pivot to a subscription-based business model. It’s hard, but exciting at the same time. This is also the year we introduce: Membership, claps, the Medium Partner Program, and a new reading experience.

Medium turns six as we double-down on our subscription business (here’s Ev sharing an update on our year-one subscriber growth). We embark on a new in-house editorial effort focused on sourcing, commissioning, editing, and featuring valuable stories behind our paywall for Medium members.

that’s us, behind “manure hauling”
Medium.com on August 18, 2018
https://twitter.com/SarahKSilverman/status/971879276143194112

Medium’s seventh year! We establish in-house publications a second time, but bigger, bolder, stronger, faster. We hire a team of editors to cover tech, politics, health, culture, and more in an effort to deliver value to our paying subscribers. Our team launches 7 original editorial brands: OneZero, GEN, Forge, Marker, LEVEL, ZORA, and Elemental. It’s heady, it’s intense, it’s us outgrowing our New York City office every few months. Here’s what else goes down…

Medium turns eight, and we collectively endure a global pandemic. So much happened this year, it’s really hard to remember most of it, but one thing’s for sure: In 2020, Medium becomes (even more of) a place where people turn to make sense of the world — because the world does some things we definitely didn’t anticipate…

Our “pill-based” logged-out homepage, circa March 2020 (featuring several in-house publications).

Medium continues to evolve: We refocus on supporting individual writers rather than commissioned journalism, and offer a voluntary buyout to editorial employees. Later in the year: We introduce email subscriptions for writers and make changes to the Medium Partner Program. The pandemic rages on. So do we.

Medium turns 10 (!). Ev Williams steps down as CEO, Tony Stubblebine steps in to take the reins. We’re a little more than halfway through this year, and a lot has happened already…

Thank you to everyone who got us here: millions of writers, readers, and hundreds of team members past and present. Thank you to the Medium engineers, designers, and product people who built the minimalist writing experience we’ve all come to love. And thanks to all of you for publishing, highlighting, responding, applauding, subscribing, and just sticking around. It’s been an eventful decade, to say the least. Your words and ideas are what inspire us to keep building.

On that note: the stories we’ve shared don’t come close to scratching the surface of what’s great on Medium — we know there’s much more. So, what’s your favorite post in Medium’s history? Let us know in the responses. We’ll make a list of the top-voted links.

Lastly, and most importantly, don’t forget that you can always share your own ideas and stories on Medium — it’s free, and we recommend trying it. After all, we built this platform for you.

Medium Staff

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