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Ever since Facebook was founded in 2004, many other social platforms have been rapidly dying off. However, contrary to popular belief, this is not because these other platforms are not trying hard enough. In fact, sometimes it occurs because they are trying too hard. For example, as Digg’s popularity increased, the designers decided to repeatedly update the website in order to satisfy their users. Unfortunately, this soon lead to “Loss of familiarity and ease of use [which] caused many people to leave the site”. By making the site unfamiliar, their users became irritable, and did not want to stick around any longer.
Originally, Digg was a platform where users could share and discover links to different websites with interesting content. Users could also “digg” pages, similar to the way Facebook users can “like” certain content. If they decided to “bury” a page, however, it would no longer appear in their own newsfeed, and it would be pushed down or simply disappear from most other peoples’ newsfeed as well. The website also gave individuals the ability to comment on other’s stories, reply to comments, vote up or down on comments, and view the most popular users. Although the idea was originally very democratic since anyone was allowed to vote, it eventually turned into what Raphael M. described as an “oligarchy. ” Since power users had so many followers, every time they would post a link, they obtained so many “diggs” that their post would appear at the top of everyone’s newsfeed. It was not long before these power users’ posts took up the majority of the front page, leaving only 44% to those users who were not in the top 100.
When Digg was first released in 2004, its popularity grew quickly, up until its climax in 2009. Within a year after Digg was first launched, the website already had 25, 000 registered users, by 2006, that number had more than tripled, and by 2009, at the height of its popularity, Digg had around 43 million registered users and “Was attracting over 236 million visitors every year”. By 2010, the website was worth about $175 million. Nevertheless, the “Popularity went to their heads and they got a bit over excited with user interface and profile updates. ” As a result, it was not long before Digg’s popularity began diminishing at a steady rate. In 2009, Digg was forced to lay off 7 people, which was approximately ten percent of its staff, and in 2010, another ten percent were laid off. There are a variety of reasons for why Digg failed. “According to analysts and insiders, it was a combination of factors, including changes to Digg’s user experience and its failure to mature in a way that could capture mainstream users”.
Although the designers may have assumed that their users would soon adjust to the entirely different layout, no such incident occurred. Instead, the drastic change in both appearance and content made their users feel as if they had no connection whatsoever with this previously popular website. This is one of the many reasons why remaining consistent is one of the most important aspects to obtaining and holding onto users’ trust, and making them not just want to come back, but feel as if they have an obligation to. Due Digg’s failure to do this, however, people quickly lost interest, and it was not long before they gave up any hope of the website returning to its former layout. While many people could tell that the website was failing, most did not realize that this was caused in large part by personal conflict occurring behind the scenes. “Conflict between Kevin Rose and CEO Jay Adelson in 2010 led to Adelson leaving the company”. This resulted in Rose taking the position of CEO despite the fact that he “Hadn’t been involved in the day-to-day operations of the company for nearly a year”.
After Rose stepped up, and version four of Digg was released, the website ran into more problems than anyone had anticipated. By this time, the website was completely different from its original version. People began using Digg as a way to reach out to the CEO and beg him to reverse the update. Many power users even wrote letters to Rose about their complaints. “In a Mashable poll of 24, 821 people, 83% preferred the old Digg”. Despite this evidence, however, the company continued to stand by their decision. Nevertheless, even if they had reversed the decision, so many people had already left the website for other social platforms such as Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter. Therefore, it likely would have been extremely difficult to gain back the trust of their users. In an article written in March, 2011, approximately six months after Rose was replaced by new CEO, Matt Williams, the author states, “TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington pointed out that Rose is 26 times more active on Twitter than on Digg, having tweeted 181 times in the past month”.
The fact that Digg’s own cofounder and former CEO was more visible on other social platforms besides the one he was responsible in part for creating, just goes to show how poorly Digg’s design was at the time. In 2012, Digg was broken up and its pieces (which consisted of the patents, the engineering team, and the website itself) were sold to different companies including LinkedIn, The Washington Post, and Betaworks. The website itself was sold to Betaworks for a mere $500, 000. Although the company was worth way more than that at the time, Betaworks was able to successfully purchase it by promising to “build something cool that they would be proud of”.
Although the original Digg no longer exists, Betaworks Put forth a lot of time, money, and energy in order to recreate and transform the website into a platform that people actually enjoy using again. Despite this effort, however, the original Digg still ceases to exist, and will never be able to fully take its place. Instead, they built the website from the ground up, with the hope of gaining a new audience and possibly regaining the trust of some of the users they lost due to these changes.
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