A tool is something that takes an existing workflow, and makes it more efficient. A nail is an efficient way of holding pieces of wood together; a to-do app is an efficient way of remembering your responsibilities. A medium, on the other hand, gives us new agency or power by which we can do something we couldn’t do before.

As with any dichotomy, there are grey areas. Powerful, effective tools can become mediums and enablers too. The graphical computer user interface wasn’t just a better way to write scientific simulations or data processing systems – it also became a new medium for creative work. Programming languages began history as a more efficient way to store and maintain punchcard programs, but a half-century of innovation has made it a medium for expressing programs that couldn’t be written before.

The web browser as a tool of thought | thesephist.com
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