Social news site Digg.com is set to launch the fourth major iteration of its site. Last week the company invited an extra 20,000 users to its version four alpha test--a number that is likely to grow in the coming days and weeks.
Given a tumultuous past few months for the company, which has seen a leadership shake-up at its very highest levels, and what insiders have described as an "exodus" of key employees, version four is more than just a redesign--it's effectively a reboot of the Digg brand.
The most obvious question is whether this new version of the site, which has been teased by the company for the past year, is truly better. The answer is a resounding yes. It's faster, cleaner, and easier to both Digg stories up, as well as submit them. It also does a much better job at filtering the large number of submitted stories by their source. But even with those improvements, Digg feels like the same site it was a few years ago, which will likely do little to silence the site's critics.
A short history lessonHow long has it been since the last major Digg revision? Try June 2006, which is when version three was announced at a bar party, then publicly launched a few months later. Back then, the biggest new feature was the inclusion of video and podcasting content that could play right on Digg story pages. These two additions were brought on as separate sections of the site--both of which would later be consolidated into just a video section when the site added an image category. Digg version 3 also brought a face lift that would let users customize what categories they saw on the front page.
Between then and now, Digg has had a few tune ups, including: a complete re-write of the site code which ditched MySQL in favor of the more decentralized Cassandra an overhauled search engine a framing toolbar called the DiggBar, which drew plenty of controversy in its year or so of existence.
There was also the launch of mobile apps, a user uprising over free speech, and several murmurs of an acquisition.
So what does Digg's fourth version bring to the table? Let's break it down by feature:
The new stuff
New followers/following paradigm, and a social news feed Similar to Twitter and Facebook's fan pages, Digg users can now follow a content source and see when new stories from that particular site have been submitted. Alongside Digg users, you're able to import people from Twitter, Facebook, and Google. This process is actually the first thing users see when logging into the new Digg, though it can be skipped entirely.
The way it works, is that Digg breaks down profiles by category. Each of these categories can be followed or unfollowed, the former of which means new items from these contacts will show up in Digg's new "My News" section. This is simply a listing of the most recent or popular content from sites or people you're following--akin to what you'd get on Facebook's news feed if you were to filter by links only.
How important the new My News page is to Digg is pretty clear based on the fact that it's the default page when visiting Digg.com while logged on. Users actually have to click over to the "Top News" tab of the site to see what unregistered users get. This isn't even something you can change in Digg's drastically simplified user settings panel.
Digg has also added an additional layer of personalization to the site's sidebar, which now populates the top links from people you're following. These are shown in order of how many of your friends Dugg any particular link. And clicking on the story pages themselves shows you those friends in chronological digging order.… Read more