Digg Relaunched Under New Management
Time to get out your shovels… Digg is brought back from the dead
After six weeks of intensive work by new owners Betaworks, social news website Digg has been relaunched.
The refreshed Digg v1 features new code and infrastructure, a simplified interface based around a single webpage, more images and less text.
The design was created based on user suggestions. However, the website has abandoned the idea of users being able to “bury” or downgrade stories, an element present in Digg up to 2010.
Digg was acquired by Betaworks in June, after its founders sold off the service in chunks.
The death of Digg
The original website was launched in 2004, allowing users to rate various news stories on the Web by “digging” or “burying” them. Members of the community could submit any webpage for general consideration, and many websites added “digg” buttons to their pages, allowing users to vote as they browse the web.
According to a Compete.com survey, by 2008 Digg’s homepage was attracting over 236 million visitors annually. The same year, the company’s worth was estimated to be around $164 million.
But after a disastrous update from version three to version four in August 2010, many of the site’s most dedicated users fled the service for other social news sites. In the redesign, Digg axed the popular “bury” button which gave stories a negative recommendation. Digg also never launched a successful mobile format.
In time, Facebook and Twitter had evolved to offer features pioneered by Digg, making the service obsolete. By July 2012, Reddit, one of the websites which successfully replicated its formula, was ranked 64 places higher than Digg by website traffic analysts Alexa.com.
On 12 July, the Digg brand, website and technology were sold to Betaworks, a New York-based team of 10 engineers, designers, and editors, for a reported $500,000.
Betaworks were already running another social news service, news.me, which focused on news integration with Facebook and Twitter.
“The existing Digg infrastructure was originally built in 2004, and on today’s infrastructure we can run Digg for about one fifteenth to one eighteenth of the cost,” Betaworks chief executive John Borthwick told the BBC.
The project was completed in just six weeks. The new Digg has less clutter, more statistics, and closer integration with popular social networks. The stories are now rated by their Digg Score – the sum of the number of diggs, Facebook shares and tweets.
At launch, v1 does not include a commenting system. “We knew that if we were going to support commenting at launch, we had to do it right, and we knew that we couldn’t do it right in six weeks,” admitted the developers. However, since comments are an essential part of the Digg experience, users can expect this feature to be added in the coming weeks.
Betaworks is serious about never putting ads on the site. The company admits it is yet to find a monetisation system, but it is ready to experiment. Learning from the mistakes of their predecessors, the designers have also prepared an all-new iPhone app and mobile website in time for the launch.
The company firmly believes that users own their data. That’s why it’s working on a system that will extract all user content from the old Digg infrastructure. In August, Betaworks will launch an archive for users of the old website to find, browse and share a history of their submissions, diggs, and comments.
Among the main criticisms of the new site is the requirement to log in through Facebook. “I have to sign in with Facebook to Digg a story??? You have automatically lost me from step one,” wrote one of the users. However, the developers have claimed that using Facebook for account registration is a temporary solution that was adopted to cut down on spam, while better anti-spam filters are developed.
Many users are also calling for return of the old, recognisable colour scheme.
In the future, Betaworks plans to develop Digg as a fully-fledged social platform, and has promised to launch an Application Programming Interface (API), so that members of the development community can build products that would contribute to the new, better Digg.
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