During South By Southwest, Gawker held a party. I attended and met up with a friend, Josh Miller, cofounder of Branch.
Branch is a group blogging platform that lets users follow a handful of influencers who are debating a topic in real time.
Gawker founder Nick Denton came over and zeroed in on Miller. He was nice — I recall him putting an arm around Miller like they were old friends. Denton has said he’s impressed by the young founder– but he was also keeping a watchful eye on a competitor.
At that party, Denton announced a new product he was working on that sounded eerily similar to Miller’s — it’d be a social commenting system that harbors conversations.
Last week, Denton made his intentions to copy Miller’s startup clear. He announced Gawker’s new social commenting system, Powwow, and said the conversations it hosts will be called “Branches.”
Denton denies the association to Miller’s startup, although he tells The New York Times Branch is a competitor.
“‘Comment tree’ is a well-used geek metaphor that predates both Gawker’s new discussion system and Branch,” Denton tells reporter Joshua Brustein.
Denton hasn’t responded to a request for comment. Miller declined to comment for this article but indicated he was flattered by Denton’s aggressive move.
“I just wish he would have used a different name,” Miller tells The New York Times.
Branch was founded last fall and raised a $2 million seed round backed by Obvious Corporation, an incubator founded by Twitter’s Evan Williams and Jason Goldman. Goldman is spending the majority of his time helping the startup and he’s moving with it from California to New York.
UPDATE: Denton just posted an email from 2008 on the article that announced Powwow. In it, Denton talks about a “tree diagram of posts” and mentions branches, showing his idea (and the term) long-preceeded Miller’s startup.
Gawker is the high-brow gossip sheet covering media, entertainment, politics and technology.