Browser side-bar chat and friend app extraordinare Me.dium has just released a new version this afternoon. I met up with founder David Mandell at last week's Web 2.0 Expo to chat about the new functionality, which he says is a very early version of Me.dium's next big thing. This big thing is actually a small change--your friends and their presence in the app, which is now taking the focus.
Previously Me.dium's claim to fame was meeting random people at sites you visited. Now it's all about your friends and improving the ways you can interact with them. Mandell compared his app with world travel, and that coming to a new city with people you don't know isn't nearly as fun as interacting with those you know and trust.
The functionality in question is the outright removal of the "everyone" tab, which would let you see the entire world of activity for other Me.dium users, and limit it to just your friends. Mandell says the tab will be added later on down the line, but he wants people to start focusing on their friends list, and expanding the ways you'll be able to interact with them in real time or asynchronously.
Part of that expansion uses the Facebook API to let you share links. If you find something you're interested in you can simply drag it over to your list of Facebook friends and it will set up a Facebook share for them right away. When they get it, it's the entire piece of content with a small note that says you shared it via Me.dium, but doesn't require your recipient to sign up read what you've sent their way.
Maybe a more important new feature is the similar pages button that will pop up with a list of sites related to the one you're looking at. In my testing it didn't do a whole lot of good, like when it likened Webware to CNN.com, but the concept is insanely great if it lets you discover new sites in a similar fashion to that of StumbleUpon.
Also on the list of things that are new is a skinning tool that lets you retheme the side bar. Mandell says they'll be opening up a way for people to design their own themes, as well as provide a place to parse through them and track what's hot. Users of Twhirl and other AIR-based communication apps will feel right at home.
As I told Mandell last week, I'm not too keen on apps that take over a big chunk of your browser. With that said I think anyone who's used to the Flock browser will be the happiest to adopt since so much of the browser's social features hang out in the same general area.