“Digging” Into The Past
// Posted by Andrew on 02/03/2013 (10:43 PM)
I was going to do a brief history on the rise of Reddit, but I felt that a description of its predecessor, Digg, is in order. While they are unrelated in terms of ownership and development, Reddit and Digg heavily influenced each other and fought for prominence on the internet.
Digg was an very revolutionary website when it came out in 2004. While Google and Bing have the ability to look up information based on keywords that users type into a search box, Digg allowed users to stumble upon (no pun intended) links and articles that they weren’t necessarily looking for, but were deemed interesting by other Diggers. Four entrepreneurs started the website with a $6,000 investment in 2004 and used the name “Digg” because Disney had already taken www.dig.com. By mid-2005, the website had secured $2.8 million in funding from investors. That year, TechCrunch.com posted a profile of Digg on their website, claiming that the startup “is a very cool site and we are now behind it 100%…we’ll definitely be coming back for a look on June 26 for the new 2.0 Beta!”
In 2006, a number of important updates were added , such as profanity filters, the ability to flag things as “inappropriate,” podcasts, videos, and a large number of new categories. In 2008, Digg netted $28.7 million, which would end up being the last big moment for the company.
In their next update, Digg launched a completely re-designed website and extensive Facebook integration. An interview with Digg CEO Jay Adelson appeared in Wired Magazine in 2010. The writer says, ”Digg has offered a first glimpse of its new website design, a radical reboot that not only alters the entire look of the site, but also ditches Digg’s rigid taxonomy in favor of user-selected tags. It also taps into the broader social web to help users discover relevant news stories.” As a bit of foreshadowing, the article says, “It’s a major overhaul of the site, the kind of radical change that risks alienating longtime users even as it takes advantage of the powerful social tools that have revolutionized the internet’s flow of information.”
The update was terribly buggy and glitchy. Users were furious over the changes, and most of them flocked to Reddit in retaliation. In addition, Facebook’s implementation of the “Like” system across the internet ruined Digg’s chances of successfully using its Facebook integration and “Digg” buttons. In a CNET article from June 21, 2010, Digg attempted to get back some of its users, traffic, and fame with a new update, but apparently their grave had already been “dugg.” The article says, “The social-news aesthetic that was once unique to Digg and a few other sites has now been co-opted by Facebook, which now offers “like” buttons that many publishers run alongside the Digg buttons that have been placed there for promotion for years; and TweetMeme, which aggregates Twitter links into a Digg-like interface.” Simply put, other websites were doing what Digg originally set out to do, and they were doing it better than Digg.
It’s amazing to think that in 2008 Digg was up for sale for a potential $200 million to Google, who never acted upon the deal. In July of 2012, a big chunk of Digg was sold to Betaworks for $500,000…that’s $199,500,000 less than it was valued four years ago. A combination of a shoddy website update, bad implementation of social media integration, and a desperate attempt to distinguish itself from its competitors spelled the end for Digg, once the darling of the internet community. StumbleUpon faced a similar fate due to Facebook’s “Like” buttons, but that company is still commanding a large section of the internet.
Reddit was the overwhelming victor after the demise of Digg. In 2012, the website had 37 billion page views and 400 million unique visitors. 30 million posts were written, and 4 billion votes were cast on posts over the past year. Through its subreddit communities, users are able to connect with like-minded individuals and can enjoy their interests with others. In addition, the r/IAmA (The “I Am A _____” subreddit) has brought in a lot of celebrities who have wanted to connect with the Reddit community, most importantly President Obama (that day, 4.4 million unique visitors visited Reddit).
The story of Digg is the story of a company who had it all and lost it all in a span of eight years. For other companies, Digg can serve as a reminder that bad decision making and the alienation of a loyal user base can ruin a company’s chances of surviving in an age where users, not corporations, can decide a website’s fate in a flash.
Main source for the timeline at the beginning: Mashable’s “A Brief History of Digg”