Me.dium comes to IE7 and adds a Web widget

The social-browsing add-on Me.dium has released a new version of the plug-in for Internet Explorer 7, as well as an embeddable widget for blogs, home pages, or other Web sites.

Me.dium (Credit: Me.dium)

Surfing the Web doesn't have to be a solitary experience, at least according to Me.dium, a browser add-on that uses real-time data to share information with your friends and the Me.dium community. Today, Me.dium added support for Internet Explorer 7, opening up the "social surfing" experience to a huge new audience.

In essence, Me.dium lets you share as much of your browsing information as you like with either a select set of friends, Me.dium users who are visiting a specific Web page, or the Me.dium community at large. The extension presents itself in a browser sidebar and displays your Me.dium universe, or "your online world." The map is based on your current Web location, your friends' current browsing spots, and your recent Web activity.

Me.dium sidebar

Hovering over a site in your online world shows all the Me.dium users there.

(Credit: CNET Networks)

As you hover over any of the sites in the Me.dium display, you'll see information about friends and other Me.dium members on each site. Sites are presented with favicon style images, and Me.dium users show up as orange (yourself), yellow (your friends), or blue (other Me.dium users). You can set your Me.dium status in the upper-right corner: visible to all, visible to friends, or visible to no one.

Once you can see where your friends and other Me.dium users are surfing, it's easy to chat with them. Simply click on a specific user or the "talk to all" link to send an instant message to your intended audience. You can also quickly message the entire Me.dium community. Responses to your "shout outs" spawn a new conversation, and about three conversations can fit in the Me.dium sidebar. If you have more than that open, the rest are accessible via a drop-down menu. Unfortunately, the sidebar cannot be resized.

Along with the IE7 add-on, Me.dium today also released a new embeddable widget that can be added to social-networking home pages, blogs, or any other Web page. The Me.dium widget below displays all of the Me.dium activity around the CNET Download.com home page. I'm "mrgrimm," so feel free to start a conversation if I'm around. (I'll try to pay attention!)

I had the opportunity to talk with Me.dium founder David Mandell last week about the launch of the plug-in for IE7, the widget, and plans for the future.

With any kind of information-sharing software, privacy concerns are paramount, but Me.dium is on top of the game, working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to address any issues (ideally) before they arise. Links to its privacy policy and terms of use are both highly visible during the Me.dium IE7 installation process, and the privacy policy is very explicit about the control and ownership of information shared with Me.dium. In addition to the upfront notices, Me.dium automatically turns off sharing whenever you visit a secure Web site, and turning it off completely is as easy as one click of a button.

The biggest work for Me.dium so far seems to have been building the technological infrastructure that allows the application to function accurately and efficiently. The challenge to collect, process, and present real-time data that changes every second must have been significant, especially when considering the sheer number of new users that will have access to Me.dium with its addition of support for Internet Explorer. This week should tell whether or not Me.dium has the ability to scale to a user base that's about five times larger than that of Mozilla Firefox.

Indeed, the user base itself is critical to Me.dium's success, and perhaps its biggest challenge. The Web has its central locations (YouTube, Facebook, Last.fm), but it's also unlimited in dimension. What about the millions of Web pages that have one or zero Me.dium users? The majority of sites and pages will usually be empty.

Well, releasing on IE7 is a huge step toward attracting new users, and the widget should also help spread the news. The design of the widget is super slick, and Web-traffic visualization is a small but growing niche market.

Me.dium chat tabs

It's easy to find a chat if you look. Multiple chat tabs stack in a drop-down menu.

(Credit: CNET Networks)

Mandell mentioned that Me.dium is much more fun at the start when you have a group of friends who already use the service, which makes sense. However, I must say that none of my personal friends are on Me.dium, but I've been having tons of fun chatting with random people around the Web, particularly on the home page of CNET Download.com, simply because it gets so much traffic. As I mentioned above, if you see me out surfing, feel feel to holler.

Is Me.dium the future of browsing? Is it Web 3.0? Check out Me.dium for Internet Explorer 7 or the Me.dium extension for Firefox and Flock and tell me what you think in the comments or ping me with a message on Me.dium.

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