Digg 3 champions the wisdom and whims of the crowd by allowing users to determine what makes the Web's hottest news and video content of the moment.
Just sign up with a free username, roll up your sleeves, and you're ready to Digg stories you find on the Internet. Digg's interface is clean and displays the top 25 stories with links to additional pages of content. Free of unnecessary frills, there's just one low-key banner ad across the top of the page. The Dashboard along the left-hand column allows you to pick your topic preferences and see at a glance what others are reading. You can subscribe to RSS feeds for a particular subject or from a particular user. This simple approach provides an alternative to e-mailing interesting stories to and from your friends or to expect friends to keep up-to-date with your blog. If kids are peering over your shoulder, activate the profanity filter to display four-letter words as four asterisks. Warning: The process of Digging stories can be addictive, as it lets you behave as a critic.
Digg 3 allows for more customization. Click the Add Or Remove topics link within the left of the screen to narrow topic areas to your liking. Here you can banish subjects that bore you, such as celebrity news. New topic areas are bundled into collapsible Containers that cover World & Business, Entertainment, Videos, and (of course) Science. Conspicuously absent is sporting news, although the new Gaming topic serves those who exercise only their thumbs. By default, you'll see Technology items, but clicking View All will display all kinds of stories that capture the true Digg zeitgeist.
We think the addition of video is a wise move. Don't feel like jumping between YouTube, Google Video, and Yahoo Video to find the latest living-room lip-syncing sensation? Digg 3 can serve as your first point of contact for video searches, with users all over the Web surfing content they like. However, we'd like to see thumbnails of videos so that we wouldn't have to guess before clicking to an external site and to watch. And we're not thrilled that a new browser window opens anytime you want to read the source of a Digg-highlighted story.
Another feature, the DiggCloud, lets you zoom in and out on a visual map and get a sense of the popularity of stories. Built to show what other users are up to, yet another feature, Digg Incoming, displays popular stories within a bar chart, then shows where a Swarm of user popularity is clustered.
The Digg process is designed to be democratic and allows hidden nuggets from around the Internet to surface and potentially attract masses of readers. This setup has its upsides, such as bringing to light otherwise buried news and views. On the other hand, the whims of the crowd tend to bring attention to quirky items that you may not care for, such as a "human can opener" video. On the other hand, more intellectually challenging stories also get plenty of attention. We like the mix of serious and silly content. And if you want your own favorites to bubble up to the top of the list, you can always keep ranking the news you like.
Unlike Google News (whose top picks are selected by algorithms rather than people), Yahoo News (whose editors select headlines), or even the revised Netscape beta (whose editors make the final call about crowd picks)--like Slashdot--Digg relies solely upon readers worldwide to find and surface the most interesting content. Because the majority rules, Digg averts potential censorship by letting its audience self-select. This can be viewed as a downside, say, if you prefer the idea of trained editors following up on an area of expertise. We're curious to see how the expanded-content Digg 3 will develop in contrast to the many dozens of Digg-like clones for niche subjects.
We expect that only savvy users or those with friends hip to the latest Web trends will set Digg as their first stop for the latest news and videos, instead of a home page designated by Comcast, Netscape, Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo and their ilk. However, you can also add Digg feeds to personalized home pages, such as My Yahoo, Windows Live, and Google Home, as well to your own blog or other Web site. And Digg is planning to open parts of its code to allow third-party developers to tweak the incoming features as they see fit.
The number of users, or Diggers, has been doubling monthly as of late and now numbers more than 300,000 (with 8 million visitors). Can Digg maintain or expand that kind of growth, or will it slump as quickly as its star rose when another tool attracts more attention? We look forward to tracking Digg's progress in the months ahead.