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Digg is a social news website where users can submit links and vote on stories submitted by others, which brings the top voted submissions with most “diggs” to the top of the homepage. One of the early adopters of news aggregation model in online publishing, Digg’s voting and submission system went onto inspire many other similar sites, most notably Reddit.
Digg was developed in November 2004 by American entrepreneurs Kevin Rose, Jay Adelson, Owen Byrne and Ron Gorodetzky. The name “Diggnation” was initially suggested but Rose settled on the name “Digg” after he unsuccessfully attempted to purchase the domain names dig.com and digdig.com. After Rose invested $6,000 into the site that was meant to be a down payment on a house, the site launched on December 5th, free of advertisements.
The initial goal of Digg was to focus on news stories rather than of sharing bookmarks for static sites people would visit regularly. The first story posted to the site was titled “CherryOS delayed till Q1 of 2005.” As of July 2012, it has only recieved 616 diggs. On June 18th, 2005, the site was first profiled on TechCrunch, which noted it had the potential to be better than Slashdot and in October 2005, less than a year after launch, Digg received their first large-scale investment of $2.8 million dollars. Despite raising $40 million dollars in venture capital by 2010, Digg did not turn a profit until 2009. In 2007, Digg released their API, allowing third parties to create applications for the site.
On July 12th, 2012, it was reported that Digg sold its assets for $500,000 to the New York City-based tech firm Betaworks, which owns bit.ly, news.me, Chartbeat and a number of other online services and products. Many tech business news articles about the acquisition described the deal as less than ideal for the pioneer of social news aggregation, especially in comparison to BusinessWeek magazine’s valuation of $200 million in 2006 and the $45 million funding it has raised since its launch in 2004. That same day, Wired Magazine reported on the site’s sale in an article titled “After Raising $45M, Digg Sells for Pennies on the Dollar” with Twitter user @darth’s mock magazine cover of Digg founder Kevin Rose as seen on the front cover of BusinessWeek in 2006.
As the news traveled throughout the tech blogosphere and mainstream media, TechCrunch published an article titled “Digg Sold To LinkedIn AND The Washington Post And Betaworks,” which identified the Washington Post and LinkedIn as two previously undisclosed acquirers of Digg’s assets. According to its familiar source, the total price of the buyout was close to $16 million, including the cost of intellectual property (IP) transfer paid by career social networking service LinkedIn, estimated in the range of $3.75 million and $4 million, and the recruitment of the Digg team by The Washington Post at the price of $12 million.
Relaunch: Digg v1
Following the sale, Digg announced on July 20th that they would be rebuilding the site from scratch in six weeks. A team of ten engineers, designers and editors from the Betaworks-owned startup News.me gave themselves a month and a half to write completely new code to relaunch Digg, adding in news.me’s personalized curation feature based on friends’ shares. With this announcement, the team opened up a survey titled “RethinkDigg” to help them focus on what the community wanted most out of the website. Four days later, 3754 people had taken the survey, which revealed that 92% of respondents would not recommend Digg in its old state. The survey results also indicated that more than 80% of respondents got their news mainly from aggregators like Reddit and over half of the responders checked the news on their phone multiple times a day. Taking the data from the survey into account, on July 30th, the blog published wireframe layouts (shown below) for the new site, explaining that they were going to reconfigure Digg scores to not only include internal likes from the site, but Facebook shares and Twitter mentions as well.
The new Digg went live on July 31st, hours earlier than anticipated, without a commenting feature. It was left out purposefully, as the developers knew they could not perfect comments in the six week time span. They also chose to not accept sponsorships or put ads on the site, making Digg completely user-driven. The same day, a new iPhone app for the site was also launched, with a feature that allows users to bookmark and share from their computer to their phone. The relaunch was featured on TechCrunch, BBC, CNN, CNet, the New York Times and Mashable. A blogger at the San Francisco Weekly openly complained about the relaunch, noting that the relaunch removed seven years of the site’s archives, rendering any links to them dead, hurting their former page ranks.
Digg’s trademark features consist of users’ ability to submit a link with a custom title and description, as well as to upvote (“digging”) or downvote (“burying”) stories that are submitted by others. Following the rise of Digg, many other social networking sites and news aggregators emulated its style, especially in user submissions and voting systems.
Since its launch in October 2004, Digg has undergone numerous redesigns; In May 2005, Digg 2.0 featuring friends, one-click voting buttons and non-linear promotion algorithm was implemented (shown below, top left). In January 2006, Digg 3.0 featuring expanded categories beyond its tech-related news section was unveiled (top right). In August 2007, Digg introduced another redesign to the homepage and profile features (bottom left). In August 2010, Digg 4.0 featuring improved social networking and sharing functions went live (bottom right).
Digg Spy is a news monitoring and tracker tool that allows the user to see what other users are digging, submitting or commenting on through a dashboard that shows a wide variety of activities across the site. In addition, the user can filter the activities by followers and other subcategories.
Digg Shout is a general purpose microblogging feature that enables the user to suggest a story submission to friends and followers directly through the site. Although it was originally designed to promote user interaction and nurture power users, the Shout feature quickly became a go-to tool for spammers.
Digg Dialogg allows the users to submit questions to a preselected famous individual who agrees to do an interview with a reporter chosen by the community, similar to Reddit’s IAmA subreddit.
As of July 2012, the website’s traffic is estimated at around 4.4 million monthly unique visits; it is ranked at 178th by Alexa and at 352nd in the U.S. by Quantcast.
AACS Cryptographic Key
On May 1st 2007, Digg began receiving DMCA takedown notices for posts that alluded to the now-defunct Advanced Access Content System cryptographic key, represented as 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0 in hexadecimal, used to crack the encoding on HD DVDs and Blu Ray discs. While the code was broken by a hacker on the Doom9 forum, the Motion Picture Association of America issued takedowns to a variety of other sites including Digg. When moderators began taking down posts containing or alluding to the code, hundreds of other users began flooding the site with posts indirectly containing the key. This revolt was covered by the New York Times and Techcrunch.
San Francisco Weekly – Digg v1: Betaworks Flushes Seven Years of Internet History Down the Toilet