Not enough people dug Digg
At its height, Digg proudly claimed it was going to change how news was consumed. Instead of journalists deciding which stories went on the front page of newspapers and websites, Digg.com would allow the ordinary reader to dictate the news agenda and vote on a story's popularity.
It seemed simple enough. And popular enough, with 30million monthly unique visitors to its website in late 2008 at its zenith.
"How this kid made $60-million in 18 months," Business Week gushed on its 2006 cover featuring founder Kevin Rose. The poster child of the then nascent Web 2.0 movement received $45-million in venture funding and was estimated to be worth $175-million. Google even tried to buy Digg.com but was rebuffed.
Digg was going to change the world. It let people choose the news they wanted to read. There was talk of the "democratisation" of news and the news agenda.
So when the headlines screamed on Friday that the once high-flying site was sold for a mere $500000, there was not a little schadenfreude, not least by traditional news outlets, which hadn't been made extinct as prophesied in the heady days of the Web 2.0 era at the turn of the century.
It would be foolish to think of Digg as a complete failure. It burned through a lot of money, made several mistakes along the way that alienated its users, and ultimately lost out to Facebook and Twitter. But, like the now-eclipsed Friendster and MySpace in social networking, it got the ball rolling for a new way of sharing and discovering news. Along with StumbleUpon.com, Digg was an early pioneer of what we all take for granted now: consuming news and other links fed to us by others, often professional journalists, but through an entirely different medium.
It's inconceivable today to think of the world without the clever, often witty one-liners and shortened links that take us to interesting articles via Twitter. Or that Google+ could have evolved into what it has.
Facebook has gone from being a service to update your status and upload pictures to the second-largest source of referrals after Google.
"Twitter became a major place to find out what was breaking on the internet. Facebook became a place in which to share links. Social media really grew up," Rose said after the sale.
Digg also arguably popularised the placement of "like" buttons on news websites with its "Digg this" link. There was also the now famous Diggnation podcast, and video stream, of Rose and others sitting on a yellow couch drinking beer and discussing the tech trends of the week. (My own personal, perhaps tenuous connection, was sleeping on the original Diggnation couch at my friend Joe Stump's house when I visited him in San Francisco last year. He was Digg's lead software architect.)
The site wasn't without its controversies. When computer code emerged in May 2007 that could crack DVD encryption, Digg began deleting the posts - angering its users. They were also offended by a redesign in 2010 and abandoned the site for similar services Reddit and Slashdot.
There were also revelations that small groups of users were much more prolific at "digging" and manipulating the popularity of certain stories, setting their own news agendas, much like the big news organisations criticised on the original Digg site.
Bought by a company called Betawork, it might not be the end of Digg. It still gets 7million unique visitors a month, according to traffic tracker comScore.
Some of its assets were sold earlier this year to The Washington Post.
Betaworks has produced a notable news aggregator for this social media age, News.me, and intends to return Digg to its roots.
Despite this ignominious sale, Digg deserves its place in history for emerging at the start of the user-generated, user-dictated Web 2.0 age of content.