Yahoo's Digg-a-like Buzz is opening up to the world tonight. Until now, while anyone could see stories that had been Buzzed and vote them up or down, only about 400 publishers could contribute new links to the service.
A Yahoo spokesperson confirmed that it was always Yahoo's intention to open up Buzz, but that it kept the service restricted while it worked out bugs and refined the product. One might wonder what is so hard about building a site for submitting and rating products. There are tons out there. Yahoo made things a bit more difficult for itself by setting a unique goal for Buzz: it's designed to feed stories to the Yahoo home page. And unlike pure community vote sites like Digg and Reddit, Buzz's algorithms also take into account search engine popularity. (Yahoo's editors still program the Yahoo.com front page manually; Buzz is a feeder system.)
Buzz also can leverage other Yahoo communities. Delicious, Flickr, and Upcoming could get prominent Buzz links to feed items into the system. That won't appear initially, but links the other way will: When you buzz something, you'll also be able to share it on Delicious, or on Digg, StumbleUpon, or other services.
It's tempting to discount Buzz as just another content voting site, but that misses the point. Publishers (like Webware publisher CNET) cannot afford to ignore Buzz, since popular stories on the service can get placement on the Yahoo page, and that could drive large amounts of traffic back. It's a big carrot. Competition for Buzz votes is going to be strong.
I'm still hoping. That would make things really interesting.
Buzz starts rolling out at 7 p.m PDT Monday. It may take some time for the new features to hit all the company's servers, I was told.