Tonight I attended the SDForum Search SIG down at Yahoo!’s campus where they showcased four recent companies working in the social networking space. Presenters were Kevin Rose from Digg, Joshua Schachter from Del.icio.us, Manish Chandra from Kaboodle and Michael Tanne from Wink. The event was moderated by Forrester Research’s Charlene Li, who made a prediction that the mainstream media and traditional search engines would begin getting into this type of social networking space this year. Although Kaboodle, Wink and Del.icio.us were somewhat interesting, the real highlight of the show was hearing from Kevin Rose on some of the future plans for Digg.
For those of you who don’t know Digg, Digg is currently the hotest thing in the social networking space. Digg is allowing users the ability to find more relevent breaking news, faster than anywhere else on the internet right now. They are rapidly approaching the popularity of the famed Slashdot and the digg effect (where dugg stories are bombarded by traffic) is becoming one of greatest drivers of traffic and attention on the internet.
So what’s up with Digg? Well according to Kevin lots of stuff. First, when asked about an open API in the future Kevin confirmed that Digg does plan on launching an open API soon. In terms of the proprietary content of Digg, Kevin noted that all the digg stuff is user submitted and belongs to them and not Digg, “it’s all creative commons stuff, if people want to manipulate our data in any way they see fit we’re cool with that.” Some one brought up the fact that someone had made a porn digg rip off called Digg for porn. Kevin chuckled and just said, “hey whatever floats your boat.” Joshua Schachter then added that someone else had already made Pornalicious as well.
According to Kevin, Digg now has 140,000 registered users and serves up four to five million pages a day. Kevin also said that about 20% of Diggs traffic comes from registered users. Doing the math this would mean that most users are clicking on two stories a day roughly. Of course some heavy users like myself are using it religiously. I have found Digg to be the most reliable, relevant, consistent and fastest place on the internet to track news these days. I’m definitely a heavy user at this point and would recommend to anyone who tracks anything on the internet these days to subscribe to the Digg feed for the terms that they are tracking.
Kevin also commented on how quickly Digg is breaking news and used the example of the London bombings where Digg had a blog post up about 45 minutes before the major news agencies started covering it.
Kevin also addressed the concerns about the havoc that could be created when false or erroneous information is posted on Digg and promoted quickly. Kevin basically said that people are smart and if something false starts to gain traction that it’s usually refuted pretty quickly. “The bigger you get the more people try and game you. You’ll see a story hit the homepage every now and again that’s inaccurate but users will usually catch on and remove the story.” I’d have to say that I agree with Kevin on this. Recently some people have been talking about the power of digg and the potential for mob mentality — my opinion is that people are smarter than this and that if a story does not ring true it will quickly be discounted and countered by the digg members and potentially even modded down.
Kevin also said that Digg is watching for other areas where people might be trying to game Digg. “We can detect a bunch of users signing up at the same time to digg a story. We look at the Digg acceleration rate, popularity of the category, look to digg ratios. We are only getting better every day.”
Kevin gave a demo of the service and showed off the basics including the new Digg Spy feature. Someone asked him about monetization and how you get paid for building something like Digg. Kevin joked, “well Joshua got his money.” Kevin was of course referring to Joshua Schachter who shared the stage with him and whose company Del.icio.us was recently purchased by Yahoo! Although the purchase price was undisclosed it has been rumored to be anywhere between $15 and $30 million. Of course the only prediction I’ve made this year is that Yahoo! would buy Digg this year. Of course Jason Calaconis and Paul Scrivens both have predicted that CNET will buy Digg this year. Digg would be incredibly valuable to either Yahoo! or CNET. More recently Mike Rundle has suggested that the price would need to be $20 million to please Digg’s VC partners. This type of acquisition talk is pure speculation of course.
Another question was presented to Kevin about why Digg didn’t have more ads. And Kevin came out pretty strongly against heavy advertising on Digg. “It’s (ads) never going to be a part of the site to bombard users with ads. Ads are only on 40% of the available inventory at present. We are trying not to clutter the page with ads.” This is smart as the real value and power of Digg is derived not from ad dollars but from building a product that will be able to much more intelligently rank search results in the future and they should be completely focused on expanding and growing the company right now while trying to figure out how best to structure the optimal algorithm to utilize of all of their user ratings and rank.
Kevin also said that the profile page is going to be changing but didn’t elaborate how and that in the future free form tags would replace the column on the left where the categories are now.
I also spent some time chatting Digg’s Co-Founder, Owen Byrne. Owen is the one who has written most of the code for Digg and said that we can expect some new functionality in Digg in the near future, particularly enhancement to search. Kevin also said that you can expect Digg to get smarter and smarter in the future and talked about how Digg will shortly begin recommending stories to you based on other peoples diggs on the site. Kevin used the example of a smart filter that you will be able to set in the future that will, for instance, show you stories on Apple only with at least 30 digs and only from a specific group of friends. This kind of future customization and filtering is exciting.
Del.icio.us had a few interesting things to say. Schachter noted that the “popular” Del.icio.us stories on their front page were not necessarily the most popular links by numbers in a pure sense. He cited Slashdot as an example of a big number site but noted that a site with less bookmarks still could be ranked ahead because they tend to rank previously unpopular sites higher than currently popular ones when they rank. Schachter also alluded to the fact that they could incorporate photos into Del.icio.us. One person asked about this and he replied, “we’ll get to it.” Personally I think integrating Flickr photos into Del.icio.us at some point would seem to make a lot of sense.
James Kim, who is the CEO and founder of Opinmind also presented informally after the formal presentation. I blogged earlier this week about Opinmind and the impressive 94% popularity rating that Flickr had (by the way, they are up to 95% today). Kim showed off an undocumented part of Opinmind where the technolgy can be used to do a company vs. company type of rank feature.
I also had a good chat with Emanuel Bettelheim who is working on a new photo sharing site similar to Flickr called Eyefetch. The site looks interesting and includes a photoblogger template that you can use to import your photos from the site into and then host as your own photoblog. I’ll have to check it out when I’ve got some time. They are really early in the process and it’s basically just a few self funded guys at this point who are trying to work on it part time.