Conversation starter Branch opens to the public

Branch, the communications service that has won the backing of two Twitter founders, is now exiting private beta as it looks to become a hub for online interaction. Last month, I profiled the company and its young Princeton drop-out founder Josh Miller, who explained that Branch was trying to be an open tool for communication and collaboration, similar to what Google Wave was trying to be.

Branch allows users to pull others into conversations that can be preserved and made public. Users can initiate a conversation by inviting a person via email or through Twitter or through a bookmarklet that can turn a tweet or URL into a conversation. More recently, Branch has enabled the ability for people to view videos, photos and gifs inside a conversation. And it’s introduced a “branching” feature to build new branches from existing conversations.

Miller said in a blog post that he’s hoping to spur on more dinner table dialogues instead of monologues, which is what much of the Internet is built on. He said it can be used for deep discussions about big issues, sharing advice or just hanging out. “We want it to be a place for you to talk about all the things that are happening in your world,” he wrote.

New York City-based Branch earlier this year partnered with Obvious Corp., the startup from Twitter founders Biz Stone and Ev Williams, who joined in a $2 million fundraising round along with other investors including SV Angel, Betaworks, Lerer Ventures and others.

As Miller told me, he isn’t trying to push one use of Branch but is hoping that users will figure all kinds of applications for it, much in the way that Twitter has evolved in the hands of users. But that is also a danger, he admitted, because there isn’t one clear use case above others. We’ll see if Branch can catch on as an IM replacement, comments alternative or publishing platform or perhaps something we haven’t thought of.