The end of San Francisco-based Digg has been nigh for over two years, ever since founder Kevin Rose helmed a disastrous redesign in August 2010 and many of the site's users fled to Reddit, but the news-sharing behemoth plodded along, not realizing it was supposed to be dead. That is, until yesterday, when new owner Betaworks put a bullet in its head.
Here, take a look. At first glance, it looks a lot like Pinterest, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But it only takes a couple clicks to realize all of the archives are gone. All of them. All of the Ron Paul idolatry. All of the ASCII facepalms. All of the linkbait. Gone.
And this could have a profound effect on the rest of the Internet.
Betaworks bought Digg's remaining assets for $500K a few weeks ago, after the company had already been picked clean by LinkedIn and the Washington Post. These assets included the domain Digg.com and all of the content on the site. A big relaunch was promised. A new beginning. And that's what the world got yesterday, minus all of the old user accounts, comments, and stories.
So what's the big deal? What's so bad about a fresh start? Nothing, in theory. A new interface might've been necessary, even desired by what remained of the Digg community. But by removing all the historical content and not even redirecting those pages to anywhere interesting, Betaworks has wreaked havoc on all kinds of internet publishers.
Digg.com has a page rank of eight, which in the world of search engine optimization is a pretty big deal. We're talking Ron Jeremy big. Links from Digg.com mean a lot for other sites. Even if tons of readers don't click a link on Digg.com and land on a publisher's page, just having that link there tells Google and other search engines that the story must be pretty damn relevant, and that means the page will show up in search results for years to come.
This is part of the reason why many social media types didn't give up on Digg even after the users fled. Those links were still really valuable for SEO. Now they're all gone, and publishers from the New York Times to Your College Roommate's Bacon Blog are going to feel the effect down the road in terms of search traffic.
Why should Betaworks care? Because by removing all of Digg's archives and creating dead links, the company removed seven years of content. We're talking millions and millions of words, all of which were coming up in Google searches and driving traffic to Digg.com. Without all those words and working links, Digg.com can kiss its page rank goodbye. Betaworks just took Ron Jeremy and turned him into George Costanza after too much time in the pool.
What would've been the harm in leaving those archives up? It's not that complicated. Instead, Betaworks decided to throw away all of that equity, leaving itself with a fairly expensive domain name and not much else.
Turn the page for reactions from former Digg power-users and other internet talkers...