The best design innovations always make you slap your forehead and say, "Why haven't we had that for years already?" Cortex, a free extension for Google's Chrome web browser, gave me the same feeling. It's simple as hell -- just a small ring that pops up onscreen when you click and hold the mouse button on something you'd like to share via social media -- but that very simplicity is its genius. It lets you instantly post to Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, or Instapaper without even moving the mouse. I installed it immediately.
While it seems like nothing special when described in words, the interface design actually solves several problems that stand in the way of current social media. One: Every website puts all their social media buttons in a different place. So if you think "I bet my friends would love this story," there's at least a couple seconds of scanning before you even find where the buttons are. And then, there's the matter of being logged into the other services. At best, that might take a combined 10 seconds. And that's more than enough time to have second thoughts about why a story was cool, or decide that it's not worth the bother begin with. Though no numbers exist for how prevalent that "breakage is" in using social media tools, just think: How many times has that rigmarole stopped you from sharing something? If you're like us, it's stopped you far more often than the number of times you actually followed through. That's a huge problem, in terms of getting people to share interesting content.
Cortex, instead, offers you a simple way that never changes no matter where you are, and which provides a central login to all of those social-media sites which you never have to fiddle with. You can even blog to Tumblr on it. In one fell swoop, all of the friction that exists in the social-media sharing process is gone. Brilliant!