The Rise and Fall – and Rise of Digg

You might remember Digg. It was launched back in 2004 as a site where people could discover, share and recommend web content. As far as I can remember, the focus was mainly technology at first, but as the popularity of the site increased, people started to share pretty much everything. By 2008, Digg’s homepage was attracting over 236 million visitors annually. Today, that has shriveled in to 45,6 million visitors annually. There are many reasons for the fall of Digg, but people tend to point at the release of Digg v4 as the final nail in the coffin. The launch and success of Reddit is also to blame; many Digg users, including myself, sought shelter there when Digg began to falter.

The value of Digg has decreased with its user base. In 2008, Google entered talks to buy Digg for around $200 million. That deal fell through during the due diligence phase. For years later, in July 2012, Digg was sold in three parts: the Digg brand, website and technology were sold to Betaworks for $500,000; 15 staff were transferred to the Washington Post’s SocialCode project for $12 million; and a suite of patents were sold to LinkedIn for around $4 million. From $200 million to $16 and a half million in four years. That’s gotta hurt.

On the 1st of August this year, we saw the result of Betaworks’ $500,000 Digg acquisition: The reboot of Digg v1. The old list based design got scrapped in favour of a magazine inspired design with higher focus on images. The hard core Digg users didn’t like it. To be fair, they didn’t like a single thing about the reboot. The new version was also released without a “bury” feature (downvoting of articles) and the only way to log in is with a Facebook account - meaning that every user’s submission and comments history are gone with the wind.

Or is it?

Betaworks is apparently going for an agile approach on the Digg reboot: Rapid, but small releases with few, but fully working features in each release and changes based on user feedback. Unfortunately, it has turned out that most users don’t get this way of doing things. They expect a fully working site on day one and Betaworks has failed to communicate how they are working, resulting in a lot of angry people who are pissed off that the service they use for free doesn’t work exactly they way they want it to work.

But I like the new Digg. The quality of the stories they link to is great, and I’ve found myself reading a lot more of the articles linked on Digg than on Reddit. Right now, the front page of Reddit is 90% cat pictures, memes, funny pictures and other dumbfuckery I enjoy when I just want to be entertained. At the same time, there are at least 12 articles on the Digg front page I’ll save for later to read when I feel I want to learn something. Yes, I know I can set up my of Reddit homepage, but I still find myself turn to Digg when I want to broaden my horizon.

The new Digg has a lot of potential, but Betaworks has got to wake up and realize that they have to get in closer touch with their users. They’ve also promised to keep Digg ad-free and I very much wonder how they plan to make any money if Digg raises to the same heights as its fallen predecessor.

And it might.


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