Digg is dead: Twitter killed it and Google helped bury the corpse
We've checked its pulse, and the link-sharing site is dead. Here's how the rise of social networking -- and Google's ceaseless evolution -- stuck the knife in and twisted
If you don't know what Digg is, you're probably either over 14-years-old or you do all your fighting with people on YouTube. Either way, it doesn't matter, because we've checked its pulse, and Digg is dead. Oh sure, it has millions of users and a fiercely loyal core following -- but that doesn't mean we're wrong. It's holed below the waterline and we're going to show you who fired the broadside.
The idea behind Digg is a simple one: to use a community of Web users to find the best, funniest or most interesting stories. A voting system makes the process more democratic than a search engine, and weighting systems and anti-gaming precautions mean honest participation is encouraged over spam.
Site owners love Digg, because if you get on the front page your traffic goes through the roof. It can also work for individuals who create work that the community deems interesting or cool. Basically, it's a way of getting that attention you missed out on when you were a kid.
So how did Digg get to the position it's in now? When it was started by Kevin Rose in 2004, social networking was in its infancy and search results were significantly less useful than they are today. There was no Facebook, no Twitter and Yahoo was still a catastrophically unusable Web portal. People looking to waste time at work had to resort to flicking elastic bands at people, or risk a sexual-harassment tribunal for inappropriate touching.
Digg caught on back then because it's like one big 'first' post. It's full of people vying to be the first to bring a story to the attention of the site's user base. Why? For people to gain credibility, they must submit a lot of stories that are 'dugg' by other users.
So in order to gain popularity, users sit on the Web's most awesome sites waiting for a new story to appear. If you look at TorrentFreak, Cracked or The Onion, you'll see that every single story has a very high Digg count. This is because it's a sure thing that, if you submit a story that hails from one of these sites, your submission will prove popular. And if you've submitted it before anyone else, each Digg the story gets adds to your credibility.
The result? It's a closed shop. SEOmoz estimates that the top 100 Digg users are responsible for more than half of the content that reaches the Digg front page. Furthermore, there could be as few as 20 'superusers' who are responsible for submitting 25 per cent of Digg's front-page stories. If you do the maths, you'll realise that anyone could set up a company with that many employees and have a far more interesting and diverse front page.
And that's the rusty knife in Digg's heart. The site is, basically, just a more modern version of portals such as Yahoo or Netscape.com. Facebook, Twitter and Google all have the potential to feed you news relevant to your interests, and with far fewer inane comments -- unless all your friends are idiots.
So, if Digg is dead, what's are going to take over?
Despite all the hype and column inches dedicated to Twitter, the core of the service has remained unchanged. Twitter is ideal for finding interesting content online, because of the breadth of people that are constantly forwarding interesting content into the cloud. The likes of Wil Wheaton, Stephen Fry and Jason Calacanis aren't on Digg, but they all have a vast number of followers to bring useful stuff to their attention. If you trust their judgment, following the posts of well-connected, prolific tweeters is an excellent way of finding out what's happening online.
If you think about the kind of links you click from Twitter, we're prepared to bet they're more relevant to your interests than anything on Digg. And the reason for that is simple -- the people you're friends with on Twitter are your friends for a reason. Either you know them personally, or you've discovered them through the service. If someone spams you with links you don't like, you'll more than likely unfollow them. If you're a tweeter, it's in your interest to tweet awesome things.
If you want to find something online, where do you go? That's right, you go to Google and you type in what you're looking for. The only time this doesn't work is if you aren't sure what you're looking for. You can't just type 'entertain me' into Google and expect it to send you to awesome sites with cat videos. (That said, you can type 'cat videos' into Google and be entertained for hours.)
What's more, Google adds functionality at a rate no other site does. For example, you can now see trending topics -- like on Twitter -- which will direct you to things that are occupying the public consciousness. Google also offers features -- through the 'Show options...' element -- that show timelines of events, related searches and the 'wonder wheel'. If you haven't seen wonder wheel -- just try and say it without singing the Wonder Woman theme -- you're missing a treat. It's certainly a good way to explore themes without really knowing where you're going to end up. After all, isn't Digg just about wasting time?
Google also has the advantage of having an RSS news reader, so, when you find an awesome site with cat videos you can simply subscribe to it. Even better, Google allows you to share your favourite feeds with other people. Just like, er, Digg?
We'll make no secret about it, we aren't Facebook fans, but even so, it's still a place people go to be entertained. Like Twitter, it has your friends, and like Twitter, it has a high proportion of people you like sending you links. Those links will probably be relevant to you, which makes you very likely to click on them.
Facebook also makes this easy, with video and photo embedding. You don't really need to leave the familiar surrounds of Facebook to enjoy most content -- photos, videos and that idiotic pirate game are all here for you to enjoy. The entertainment might not be very high quality, but it's still incredibly easy to waste your life answering quizzes.
So Digg is dead. It had its chance to shine, but it's been out-done by more ambitious upstarts with much better funding and better ways of showing you the things you like. But it will always have its core audience of abusive youngsters in that ever-important race to see who can type 'first' first.