Just 10 weeks after start-up incubator Betaworks acquired its brand name and URL, the new-look Digg is celebrating its one-month anniversary.
Sporting a pared-down, picture-heavy, ad-free homepage, the site has been dubbed “a Pinterest for news links.” The voting algorithm that was a defining feature of Digg’s previous incarnation remains (though human editors also play a role in curating the site) and articles like "The Five Coolest (and 5 Strangest) Marvel Comics Foodstuffs" prove that its audience has lost none of its interest in the more bizarre elements of the news.
There are however clear signs that not everyone is diggin’ the new format. Initial reaction to the re-launched website lamented the loss of key Digg functions, and four weeks have done little to assuage such concerns. Despite being a central reason for Digg’s initial popularity, the old commenting system has disappeared and users are required to sign in via their Facebook account should they want to interact with articles.
Even more distressing for the Digg-faithful is the disappearance of archive material: all articles, links and comments contributed by users in the past are nowhere to be found on the new site.
After its sale, the Digg brand was merged with News.me, and the site’s new developers promised that the much-loved aggregator would be stripped back to basics and treated as a brand new start-up. It is a move that could cost the latest incarnation of Digg dear, fears AllThingsD’s Mike Isaacs: “Philosophically, this cuts to the heart of what a social, community-based sharing site needs in order to thrive. Digg is essentially only as successful as the volume and quality of content that is shared by its users; users who want to talk with each other about the items they’ve submitted, to riff on and build off of each new link in the network.”
In order to flourish, Digg needs to reestablish the sense of community that was once synonymous with its brand, and Isaacs questions whether removing all trace of its small but loyal fan base is the best way to achieve that aim, especially in light of the site’s current inability to attract significant amounts of traffic.
Disappointingly, the rebirth of the former social media behemoth did little to capture the imagination of online news junkies. Digg’s visitor numbers peaked only a few hours after its launch, and continued to plummet throughout the site’s first week online, according to statistics gathered by data analytics company Chitika. Digg has done little so far to challenge its closest rivals, Reddit and StumbleUpon, which are still dominant in their field.
That said, it is all too easy to compare Digg v.1 to the Digg of the past, instead of seeing the site for what it is: a new news aggregation site (albeit one that shares the name of a much older one) that is far from being the "end product." True, Betaworks re-launched the site within an impressive six weeks, but not because it was deemed to be "finished." Rather, the quick turnaround was ultimately due to the fact that the old Digg’s infrastructure was proving too expensive to run. Already the Digg project is making positive steps towards establishing itself as an up and coming news source, by targeting the growing number of people who access news via mobile devices with its new app. A major advantage of having relatively Spartan site as the starting point for Digg v.1 is that Digg is left with the space to develop and evolve over time.
Digg’s attempts to move on from its past could be costing it visitors for the time being, but the site might also be suffering from the high expectations of users nostalgic for the brand’s glory days.