Digital Challenges That Digg Couldn’t Handle
Users were abusing Digg’s digital platform
Even though the Digg concept was initially very democratic (everybody could submit links and everybody could vote), it quickly became an oligarchy.
The reason was the so-called “power users”: a select group of users who had a disproportionate influence on votes because they were “popular”.
Every time a power user would submit a link to Digg, all its followers would up-vote the link. As a result, more than 50% of the front page was filled with power-user submitted links. Not very democratic!
As always with digital platforms, people try to enhance the system every time you give them a chance. One solution could be to mimic 4chan.org's anonymous posting policy to reduce the influence of individual users.
When posting anonymously, users are discouraged from abusing the system for self-promotion or fame.
Digg yielded to investor pressure
“… this new version of Digg reeks of VC meddling. It’s cobbling together features from more popular sites and departing from the core of Digg, which was to ‘give the power back to the people.’’ – Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit (a competitor of Digg).
One of the reasons behind Digg’s v4 fiasco was the VC investors who put pressure on Digg to generate profits. As a consequence, Digg tried to copy other more popular (and profitable) websites instead of sticking to its existing features. In addition, Digg changed its ranking algorithm in v4 and pushed “corporate-sponsored” articles to its front page.
Generating profit as a digital platform is hard. Taking shortcuts to get there is a losing strategy!
Digg should have focused on its users rather than on its P&L. Reddit did it and is now #1 (and worth millions even though they’re still losing money).
Reddit copied Digg and got away with it
Reddit was founded in 2005 and offered almost the exact same features as Digg. Contrary to Digg, however, they never changed their UI and were comfortable in losing money because they were acquired by Condé Nast Publications, which provided ample financial safety.
When Digg v4 was released, Reddit welcomed Digg users (and even put a Digg logo on their website to taunt them!)
Digital platforms are very competitive by nature: any new entrant can replicate your website overnight.
What it can’t replicate are the user base and the community, and this is what Digg should have protected above all (instead of changing the UI to make it mainstream).