Like all nonsense, it’s intended to be easy to swallow. But Mr. Williams’s argument is flawed in at least three ways:
It makes no sense in the context of today’s web. If Medium had launched 10 years ago, it would’ve been astonishing. But it didn’t. Today, the costs of web publishing—including design—have declined to almost zero. Relative to today’s web, Medium is not creating new possibilities, but instead closing them off. To prevail, Medium needs to persuade you that you don’t care about the broader expressive possibilities of web publishing.
It sets up a false dichotomy about writing tools. Mr. Williams depicts the writer’s choice as Medium vs. complicated tools like Word. Not accurate. First, different tools exist for different needs. It would be silly to use Word to make a web page, but equally silly to use Medium to prepare a print-on-demand paperback. Second, anyone who’s used current blogging tools appreciates that web publishing has become heavily automated. Much of the formatting can be handled automatically (e.g., via WordPress themes) or manually, as you prefer.
You’re giving up far more than design choice. Mr. Williams describes Medium’s key benefit as rescuing writers from the “terrible distraction” of formatting chores. But consider the cost. Though he’s baiting the hook with design, he’s also asking you, the writer, to let him control how you offer your work to readers. Meaning, to get the full benefit of Medium’s design, you have to let your story live on Medium, send all your readers to Medium, have your work permanently entangled with other stories on Medium, and so on—a significant concession.