If all goes to plan, later in the day Digg will roll out a major update to the social news site, to add a number of new social networking features: enhanced user profiles, private messaging, discussion boards, and privacy settings. Nearly all features that I called for in a post here on ZDNet titled 'Five ways to make Digg more social', which, after being voted onto Digg's front page, was largely criticized by the site's users for "wanting to turn Digg into MySpace". Which of course I didn't.
Business Week quotes Digg CEO Jay Adelson explaining the reasoning behind adding social networking features to the site, noting that as Digg's community interests have broadened -- away from technology alone -- the site needs better ways to enable smaller communities to form within the larger user base as a whole.
"Now that nontech stories have exceeded the tech stories," says Adelson. "The challenge is on us to provide what our community needs."
One way to is to provide the tools for like-minded people to connect and share content, regardless of what stories the "popular vote" decides should hit Digg's front page.
As well as proving what the "community needs", Digg may also be providing what advertisers need.
Just in the same way as other social networks operate -- MySpace and Facebook, for example --- advertisers can begin to target indivividual (or groups of) users much more efficiently, the more they know about them. And the best way to make that happen is to get the users themselves to volunteer more personal information and to organize themselves into discreet interest groups.
Friend and content recommendations (another feature I suggested) will be introduced at a later date, and is further designed to help organize Digg's users into social networks within the larger social news site's community. The result is that the site's content becomes even more relevant and social to its users, while at the same time providing even more hooks for advertisers.
The isn't conspiracy theory stuff, it's just the way any ad-funded site works which feeds off its users' social graphs. MySpace is refining its data mining and ad-targeting, Facebook has plans to the do the same. We're now really starting to see phase two of the social networking phenomenon kick-in. Monetization.