Digg has been taken over, rewritten and relaunched in record time: using agile development, the new version was developed in just six weeks. It also looks much nicer than it did when the Version 4 redesign effectively killed the site. However, what had been one of the internet's prime discussion sites no longer has any discussions at all. Until it does, it's "Hamlet without the prince". It may attract new users, but it's not going to tempt former diggers back from their new homes at Reddit, Hacker News, Metafilter or even Slashdot.
But the new site has what current and former Digg users will see as two major but related flaws. First, it uses Facebook for its identity system, and it even posts "diggs" to your Facebook page. Second, the new ID means that users who have spent years building their Digg identities have seen the benefits and their data, at least temporarily, disappear, along with Old Digg.
Yes, that's seven or eight years of content, and millions of links, flushed down the drain.
Making people log in with Facebook is a good idea for company sites and services that want to identify real users, and to limit spam, abuse and trolling. However, real names are very rarely used on discussion sites such as Reddit, Slashdot and Stack Exchange, where anonymity is important in providing freedom to comment. These sites mainly use gamification techniques, with users voting comments up or down, to remove unhelpful comments from view.
New Digg's FAQ says: "Using Facebook for account registration is a short-term solution that will seriously cut down on spam, while we take our time to develop more robust spam-filter technology. We know this isn’t ideal, so rest assured: we are working towards a more lasting solution."
Either way, the digger icons and shovels have gone. A Digg is now basically just a Like.
New Digg (right) is also picture-oriented where, again, rival link-sharing sites such as Reddit, Hacker News, Metafilter, Slashdot and Delicious either have small thumbnails (Reddit) or no pictures at all. Worse, everything is on one page. In fact, the new Digg looks much like a version of Pinterest for news stories.
Since there are more than a dozen Pinterest clones, there may be one of these already, though not one with the high profile that re-using the Digg name ensures.
Like the Google's G+ BBS (bulletin board system), New Digg is extremely "information poor". Any text you might want to read is very sparse, and overwhelmed by "designed" white space and pictures. Again, this is the complete opposite of Reddit/Hacker News/Metafilter and similar services, where information is more highly valued than eye candy.
Even accepting that this is an agile "first shot" at a future website, the site doesn't offer enough Old Digg to qualify as a New Digg. So far, it's really just a new thing capitalising on an old name.
Whatever happens to New Digg, the failure of the old Digg provides an important lesson for e-commerce businesses and social media websites in particular. Monetate, in conjunction with Forrester Consulting, summed up the disaster in an infographic: Replatforming: Don’t Digg Your Own Grave. The lessons include: listen to your power uses; don't make unproven, irreversible changes; and "consider replatforming separate from a redesign".
It may well be true that Digg needed to be moved to a new technology platform to survive. However, Digg tried to change its backend infrastructure, its design, its business strategy and other things, all at the same time. It was more than the team could handle.
It remains to be seen whether Betaworks can make New Digg successful. As a former Digg user, I can't see any reason to go back, and lots of reasons to avoid it. However, the web has hundreds of millions of new users, and it now has the chance to build a whole new audience. It may have to.
Digg was launched by Kevin Rose, Jay Adelson and others in 2004 and rapidly became popular. Kevin Rose was featured on the cover of Business Week with the headline: How This Kid Made $60 Million In 18 Months. Digg was apparently worth around $200 million. However, following a disastrous redesign that prompted many users to move to Reddit, it was sold to the New York-based Betaworks for a reported $500,000. (Also, Digg's staff moved to the Washington Post for a reported $12 million while LinkedIn bought its patents for $4 million.) Rose left Digg in 2011. His next start-up, Milk, was purchased by Google and its product, Oink, closed down.