About 2 weeks ago, Betaworks announced they were acquiring Digg for about $500k. Let that sink in for a bit. A company that has taken in about $45M in funding (CrunchBase), who has turned down acquisition offers from giants like Yahoo and Google, sold for what many startups aim to raise in an angel/friends & family round. John Borthwick and company have an audacious vision to turn Digg around.
Digg was messy. It was losing traction, getting spammed, and users were flocking to other properties like Reddit and Canvas. New services like Percolate were started to deliver popular news stories. Using resources from News.me, the team of 10 rewrote Digg from the ground up. They wiped the existing codebase, including algorithms that determined Digg scores and indexing. They built the service to fit in and run with the current and next generation of web services. What ended up happening was something completely ambitious. They launched in 6 weeks.
6 weeks! If you’ve worked at a startup, you’ll know that 6 weeks to build and launch a site that has an existing user base in the millions is rough. We try to push out a few new features and updates every week or two, but when we decided to rewrite our site from the ground up, it took us much longer than 6 weeks, granted the scope, scale, and complexity of Digg and any other site is variable. So a huge pat on the back for the team at Digg, because what they did in that short amount of time is tremendous.
Along the way, the team posted an update on their progress. They were nuking a lot of features, and focusing the product newswire-type content like Top Stories, Popular, and Upcoming. They were making product decisions for launch that many have begun complaining about like the absence of a commenting system. What people don’t understand is that these were decisions FOR LAUNCH. The team doesn’t want to put out crappy features that might be prone to errors and abuse. They’ll have commenting and better social features, but they’ll be available once the team feels like they’re ready to be used. If there’s one thing Digg is stressing, it’s that they’re a new service and any and all feedback on existing and future features will be taken into consideration. This is only version 1, and I’m sure they’ve got plenty of things in the pipeline for future updates.
The new site is extremely simplistic and lightweight. The team is determined. Mistakes and innovations will be made, but remember that this won’t be the same Digg that we all once knew. Good luck, there are a lot of us cheering you on.