Last night, during Digg‘s annual SXSW party, Digg’s CEO Jay Adelson announced a set of significant changes to Digg. Among the changes Adelson announced are a streamlined submission process, a personalized homepage, an unlimited amount of topic pages, a new commenting system and better curation tools. Earlier this morning, we got a chance to sit down with Adelson to discuss these changes in greater detail. Some of these changes will surely be extremely controversial in the Digg community and might also make some publishers who rely on Digg’s traffic a bit nervous.
It’s hard to underestimate the influence these changes will have on the Digg community. Not only did the Digg team create a completely new backend architecture, but Digg is also making a lot of changes to how the site will work from a user’s perspective – some of which will surely be controversial among Digg’s most active users.
Digg will launch the new site in alpha in a few weeks. You can sign up for an account here. It’s important to note that Digg plans to work directly with its users and is looking for feedback from its alpha users. The alpha site, for example, will feature a large feedback bar at the bottom of every page.
Personalized Homepages as Default
On the new Digg, every user will get a personalized homepage which will be populated with stories that are popular among this user’s friends and relate to topics this user has expressed interest in. This personalized homepage will become the default Digg frontpage for all users who have signed in to Digg. Users who are not signed in will still see the old Digg homepage. With this, the Digg team is clearly looking to get more users to sign up for the service. Digg will also update its users’ profile pages.
Submitters Lose Power
Another major change to Digg – and one that will surely create some controversy among the most active users of the service – is that the new Digg will de-emphasize the power of submitters and put an even stronger emphasis on who votes for stories, as well as on outside signals from third-party services like Twitter and Facebook. Indeed, the new Digg will now allow publishers to auto-submit their stories through RSS feeds and a number of other mechanisms that the company plans to unveil in the next few weeks. Until now, while Digg didn’t forbid publishers to submit their own content, this behavior was generally discouraged by the Digg community.
As Adelson told us, on the new Digg, submitting a story will basically mean that you are the first voter. Currently, a relatively small group of submitters has a lot of power over which stories will appear on the Digg frontpage.
Signals from Twitter, Facebook and Co.
While there will still be a role for those users who regularly discover new and interesting content, the new Digg will put a strong emphasis on votes and signals from your friends on third-party sites like Twitter and Facebook. Indeed, Digg will create a social graph for you that will take all of this information into account when it create your personalized homepage. On the homepage, Digg will also expose why a story appeared in your feed.
While Adelson couldn’t go into details, it seems like Digg has established a very good relationship with Twitter and has had access to Twitter’s firehose feed to almost a year.
Once the new digg comes out of beta, anonymous users will also be able to vote on stories. While the team is still working out the details, it is clear that Digg is looking to get as many signals as possible to augment the current voting process. It will be interesting to see how Digg will weigh all this information in the creation of personalized pages and the new topic pages.
The submission process for stories that haven’t been submitted to Digg already will now be a one-click process.
Digg will also soon use third-party sign-on systems, including Google, Twitter Connect and Yahoo to allow its users to sign in.
Working With Publishers: What Will Happen to the Digg Effect?
Obviously, quite a few publishers will worry that the old Digg effect – which would often take sites down because of the huge amount of traffic a story on Digg’s frontpage can create – will now disappear. Adelson, however, who also noted that Digg “wants to be a good source for traffic for publishers,” thinks that this new system will create a more regular stream of traffic to publishers.
In the long run, Adelson noted, Digg also plans to open up its advertising platform to share revenue with publishers. This project is still in its early stages, but according to Adelson, this could involve using a widget on the publisher’s site or by using Digg’s salesforce to sell ad inventory on these sites directly.
To make all of this work, Digg completely stripped out the old infrastructure and started over by building a completely new platform. This, said Adelson, will allow Digg to easily make changes to the frontend and react to user feedback during the alpha and beta phase. At some point in the future, Digg might also open this platform up to third parties.
A Completely New Platform
Digg is clearly taking this new version extremely serious. The company plans to hire 50 engineers this year to help with scaling the architecture. Adelson was clearly proud of the work his team has done on the backend architecture. The new site will be “wicked fast,” thanks to a complete retooling of every aspect of the site, up to the point where the bottlenecks for Digg are now network speed and latency. This is quite a feat, given that Digg now offers an almost unlimited amount of topic pages and a personalized homepage for every user – all of which will have to be recalculated constantly.
How Will Users React?
It will be very interesting to see how users will react to all of these changes. Adelson and the rest of the Digg team are very aware that this will create some controversy, but Adelson clearly thinks that this is the right way to go for Digg. The topic pages will allow Digg to cater to users who care about every type of news, be it the Boston Red Socks or the latest gadget news.