News aggregation community Digg has announced a number of new features designed to take the site's social networking beyond simply "digging" and "burying" headlines and blog entries.
Starting Wednesday night, members of the site can further customize their account profiles so that they more closely resemble something on a social-networking site--more personal information, bigger photos, and a more extensive record of site activity. They will also be able to use their friends lists as content filters so that their "social news" comes from a select group rather than the Digg community as a whole.
That's not all. In a video posted on the Digg blog, founder Kevin Rose boasted that the site has launched more than 50 new features. Among them are "shout," so that users can send quick messages to people on their friends lists, and a "sharing" function much like Facebook's--or the link-sharing feature in Rose's other start-up, Pownce.
In addition, more new Digg features are on the calendar: in late October, the long-awaited "Digg Images" section, where people will be able to submit and vote on images rather than news stories, will launch. Later this year, the site will release a recommendations engine that sounds much like StumbleUpon, as well as a way for people to craft customized e-mail alerts.
By allowing individual Diggers to shape their identities--and their methods of news consumption--on the site, the company may be doing some image therapy, whether intended or unintended. Digg, touted upon its launch as a small media revolution, has become wildly popular (the company's statistics say 19.3 million unique visitors in August) but nevertheless has gained a reputation as being a geek hub--its audience is often compared to that of veteran "nerd news" sites like Slashdot and Fark.
Stories about the likes of Linux and HD DVD often dominate the front page, and if there's any kind of iPhone news, forget about finding much else in the top 10. But that could change with extensive customization features that will allow relative Luddites to block out the swarms of Apple and Google junkies, as well as more detailed profiles that highlight individual Digger identities rather than allowing the community to blend into an amorphous mass of vociferous tech newshounds.
And that might be exactly what Digg needs.
The company is certainly highlighting its desire to retool its reputation. "Digg has made great progress expanding beyond its roots in tech news: page views of content related to technology currently represent only 12 percent of all page views on Digg," the company said in a statement Wednesday. "This trend, which started about a year ago when nontech content submissions first outnumbered tech content submissions, continues to grow as the Digg user base becomes more diverse."