Time heals wounds, right? Unfortunately, the time since Digg was at its peak in mid-2010 until now has not been enough time for me to really let it go. They had something wonderful growing in social media and I was a part of it. The demise of the site still stings today.
I put together a piece that spilled my social media heart out on the table. While I wanted to post it here, this is a venue for positive growth in social media today and tomorrow, so reminiscing about what might (should) have been doesn’t go here. Still, it had to be written, so I put it on Medium. If you want to check it out, here’s a snippet:
There has never been a social media site that acted more like a meritocracy than the old Digg.com. It required true talent at both finding the content and “gaming the system” to become a power user. Only a few hundred people in the world mastered it.
We’re four and a half months into the new version of Digg. The social news site that was once the darling of technology and business bloggers alike had seen a dramatic downturn in traffic and users over the previous couple of years and there was a lot of excitement about the potential rejuvenation of the site. What came shortly afterwards was a flurry of criticism, a dramatic drop in traffic due to the scrapping of millions of pages that had been indexed in Google, and a loss of individuality – users were no longer really users that engaged with the site. The “social celebrity” status that many such as MrBabyMan and LouieBaur had achieved through years of work were destroyed by the new site “as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”
Most believed that when Betaworks bought Digg last month and announced plans to revamp the site completely, that they were getting a recognized domain and a good amount of traffic to go with it. Despite Digg’s fall over the last 3 years, it has always hovered on Alexa’s traffic rank between 120 and 190 worldwide. There were times that it would dip below 200 for a brief period but it was never ranked sub-200 on the standard 3 month scale.
Today, it officially has. Poor performance in the first 10 days of the Betaworks era at Digg have them ranked 203 on the Global Rank scale which accounts for the prior 3 months. What’s worse, it’s on pace to plummet much further. If the current trends continue (and there’s indication that Betaworks is making any changes other than tweaks to the current UI on the site) Digg will fall below 400 within the next 3 months. Its 7-day ranking is 466.
Much of this can be attributed to the decision to dump 14+ million pages of indexed content that had accumulated over the years. Others point to the decision to take the social components out of Digg, making submitting content virtually worthless and putting together a news aggregation page that is clearly moderated rather than voted on by the Digg community.
In fact, there really is no true “community” at Digg anymore. All accounts were deleted. All activity that users have performed over the years was removed. There is no longer a remnant of what the social media giant once was. In its current state, it’s a domain that many people still have bookmarked…
I told Kevin Rose that he made a huge mistake with Digg v4 a couple of days after launch. He Tweeted some snide remark about how he’d built such a large site and dismissed the warning.
I told Matt Williams shortly after he took over that he had to get extremely aggressive if his site had any chance of surviving. He and his team stayed conservative to the bitter end.
As progressions go, I had expected to offer some meaningless after-the-fact advice to the new owners of Digg once they launched “V1″. Unfortunately, I have no advice to give. It seems that in 6 weeks of development they managed to obliterate the site beyond repair.
In short, Digg is officially dead.
Had they just completely given up, moved all of the content to a WordPress blog, and tossed some adsense in the sidebar, they would have been better off. Here’s why.
Millions of Pages Crying Out in Terror…
“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.” ~ Obi-Wan Kenobi
There is only Digg.com now. All of the content, all of those highly ranked pages in Google, all of the accounts with years of records and service to the site – gone. They weren’t even redirected. They’re now just a blank 404 page.
This in itself is arguably the dumbest move in the history of websites. Despite the decline in recent years, Digg still received a good amount of traffic from search. Google ranked the pages well on many topics and it was a trusted source with inbound and outbound links that met perfectly with what Google wanted.
This was the one great asset that Digg still held. It was wiped clean, presumably irreversibly today. Nearly 20 million pages. Lost. Forever.
Users? What Users?
If you had a Digg account, you don’t anymore. Nobody does. You have a Facebook or a Twitter account and that’s all that Digg recognizes.
From New Digg’s perspective, those of you who spent years of your life contributing content, comments, Diggs, and buries – you are worthless trash that has no place on their site. The friends you made – better find them on other networks. Digg isn’t a social network. It isn’t a social media site. It isn’t even really a social news site anymore. “Submitting” is meaningless. If you want to “submit” to Digg, you’d better get your Twitter account ready.
We’ve posted dozens of stories today to Digg without a single one making it into the upcoming section. If you think it’s because of human moderation, think again. We’ve seen stories in different languages make it. We’ve seen Reddit.com make it. Even “Pain Control” made it.
It’s Techmeme with Pictures
The closest approximation we’ve seen so far is that it’s like a mini-Techmeme. You Tweet tips to them. They pick top stories weighed against a makeshift algorithm. They favor mainstream media sites.
We love Techmeme, but we don’t need another one. For general topics, there’s already Google News which seems to be more up-to-date.
No, It’s Not Too Early
Those who will cry, “Give them a chance” or “They just got started” probably haven’t seen the complete scope of Digg’s obliteration. They didn’t just come in and “rethink” Digg as they claimed they were going to do. They did everything they could to destroy it. V4 for the last 2 years was bad but it had a few redeeming qualities. Betaworks has come in and removed the last remnant of what made Digg good.
We were hopeful. We expected bad but kept a positive outlook. The blog post about what Digg was going to become seemed to have some good ideas. This is worse than we could have imagined.
So long, old friend.
As a fitting note, the top story in upcoming right now tells the sentiment that many feel right now:
The only that would have been better for Digg would have been had it sold at its peak rather than it’s downfall, but there is a distinct potential for a silver lining to the news that Digg was sold for parts bit by bit over the past couple of months, culminating in the sub-million purchase of the domain and remaining assets by Betaworks. If this plays out the way we expect, Digg is poised for a comeback that they were never able to pull off on their own.
There are rare things in this world. Blue diamonds. Black tigers. No-hitters. Fallen social media sites making a comeback.
The last one may be the most rare of them all.
Though the odds are stacked against them, the philosophy of Betaworks seems to fit in nicely with the concept that Digg is seeing the beginning of something good, the dark before the dawn, so to speak. On their website:
“We are makers. Creating companies, scaling germs of ideas, crafting the future of the social web. One good idea at a time.”
If this is true, then Digg being integrated with News.me is a step towards something potentially wonderful. They are turning it back into a startup with a low budget, small team, and fast cycles. To those of us who have been a part of the site for years, this is music to our ears. The biggest problems that Digg has faced over the years has been when it tried to be bigger than itself, when it catered to the wrong audience, and when it tried too hard to be a business rather than a startup. There’s a subtle difference in the mentality; businesses must make money today while startups must build value today.
The value has been proven over and over again in the startup world to be within the community and through the users. Facebook got it (mostly) right up until their IPO. YouTube, Reddit, LinkedIn – they all worked towards building strength through their users and through their sense of community.
Digg went the way of MySpace, Yahoo Buzz, and Netscape/Propeller in the decisions they made throughout the last 3 yours. If Betaworks recognizes this and truly does what they say they want to do, then Digg is about to get big once again.
“The News.me team will take Digg back to its essence: the best place to find, read and share the stories the internet is talking about. Right now”
From the looks of it, Facebook is gearing up its Open Graph platform to be its very own app store, one that could possibly one day compete with the likes of iTunes and the Android Marketplace. The social networking company has been working diligently on the platform over the last year, and recently introduced more than 60 new applications for users to play with.
For most people and most pictures, sharing it on Facebook or Twitter is enough. It may be a quick snapshot of you and your friends out on the town or a cool sunset from a mountaintop and sharing it with our friends and family is enough. Other times, we’re able to capture something amazing, stunning, hilarious, or otherwise important enough to want to expose it to the rest of the world.
With those, we want to go viral. Here’s a (relatively) quick way to maximize the exposure of your perfectly-timed, once-in-a-lifetime shot.
This is going to be a make or break year for Digg.com. After the debacle of 2010’s V4 launch, many in the industry thought that the site would die a quick death in 2011. As the year comes to a close, Digg is far from dead and is poised for a rebound in 2012.
Over the last year since the launch of version 4, Digg has faced challenges in regaining its relevance in social media. Traffic is down. Users are less active. It has seemed at times as if Digg may go the way of MySpace, Propeller, and Yahoo Buzz – social sites that were once big news but failed to adapt to a changing social sphere.
Today, they launched Digg Newsrooms in limited beta. If it’s as successful as they hope, it could mark the shift that the site has needed to get back to the top of the social news game.