Digg is getting a refresh today. The big changes are in video, which will now be differentiated from news, and a podcasting category also has been added. The interface and the front page will be improved, and the personal profiles will get some navigation fixes.
The fundamentally new feature with this release is Digg's podcasting category. Podcasts will be playable from within the Digg Web site. Video podcasts will be playable as well.
Diggers will be able to Digg up podcast feeds (complete podcast series, for example, TWiT or CNET's Buzz Out Loud). Inside the Digg page for a feed, specific episodes will be Diggable. This is the first time, to my knowledge, that Digg has implemented a content category that's aware of hierarchy--Digg will treat series differently from individual episodes. The Digg directory also will be fundamentally different from iTunes, where the top podcast lists are based purely on the number on subscriptions. (While user reviews on iTunes can be helpful, Digg's episode-by-episode voting will make it easier to discern what is worth your time.)
We think Digg could also apply the hierarchical system to anything that has RSS feeds. So we may see, at some point, the capability to Digg blogs differently than individual blog posts.
In the revised Video category, the new Digg will play videos directly, rather than linking to its hosting sites. That makes sense--video services such as YouTube already make it easy to put their videos on any page; Digg is just taking advantage of that. At launch, Digg will play YouTube and Yahoo videos, as well as some other site's videos. Other video hosts, such as MetaCafe, should be added later.
Where's the music?
Digg CEO Jay Adelson told us there are new top-level categories coming to Digg later, but he didn't want to say which. Music, perhaps? When we asked about this, Jay laughed nervously and said, "Music is cool and we all listen to it." He did not say how or when Digg is going to let its users Digg up or down songs or artists, nor how the company is going to link to music content. Presumably Digg would have to partner with various music stores (iTunes, Zune, Napster, and Real) to implement this.
Front page and UI
Digg will get a new front page. It will take better advantage of monitors (instead of being fixed, as it has been), and there will be additional lists on the category and front pages. The main list of Digg stories remains much as it's been, with the most recent popular Diggs at the top. But a new, smaller list of top 10 stories (in each category) will run to the right of that. The top 10 list, which is updated in real time, is ranked strictly by number of Diggs in a given time period (about a day in the main technology categories, Jay told us), so it will present a more coherent view of what's hot in a category, not just what was most recently Dugg.
Heavy Digg users who were put off by the last update (Digg version 3) that moved the category navigation from the right to the left of the screen will have to relearn the new position of the categories, now under drop-down menus at the top of the page. But we think the nav works well there, since it gives more real estate to the content.
The user interface changes are improvements. The new embedded video player is very nice. The podcasting category looks as if it's going to be extremely useful. And we're still waiting for Digg music.
Josh Lowensohn contributed to this report.