Since Digg launched late in 2004, it has not been without controversy. From users posting a coveted encryption key that allowed copying of HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs in 2007 to recent reports that a group of conservative "Digg Patriots" are using multiple accounts to push left-leaning stories out of popularity, the social news site has consistently been responsible for drawing and driving huge amounts of traffic (currently Alexa rates Digg as #51 in terms of traffic rankings in the US).
What hasn't changed too much over the years is the functionality on the site, until now.
This release of Digg Version 4, commonly referred to as "The New Digg" brings a social element to the site that was missing in past releases. Although there has always been an active community on Digg, it has primarily focused on the most popular (most dug) stories on the site's homepage (and the stories that were buried, never saw the light of day). V4, on the other hand, gives your own personal networks priority so you can focus on what your friends are digging (within My News). However, it you want to see what everyone is digging, you can still do that too.
The first major change is when you log in. First time V4 users will see a list of Suggested Profiles to follow, all organized neatly into 10 categories. You can also find friends on Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail who are using Digg. Once you've picked people to follow, you'll enter the "My News" page. This section looks quite similar to the old version, but some buttons are in different places to make the site even easier to use.
For dugg YouTube videos, you can now watch these clips directly within Digg (and share them via email, Facebook or Twitter). Also, for content creators, you can now automatically pull your RSS feed into this new version (so no need to manually add the link). Although many of these features are new to Digg, it is functionality that is now commonplace within other social sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
I interviewed Digg's acting CEO Kevin Rose Tuesday and asked him about this new release. With more than 40 full-time developers working on the site, he mentioned there is still a lot more to come before they launch to the public (they are now rolling out invites to the alpha site to batches of users who request invitations). He also said that the majority of existing users are embracing The New Digg, but of course there are always a group of individuals who don't like change.
I've been a Digg user since the early days, but I abandoned the site a couple of years ago as I started to spend more time on Facebook and Twitter. For me, the reality is that I can only effectively manage a couple of active social networks at a time. While I love the look of The New Digg, it's not something that I've fit back into my daily news routine. Like many people, I have enough content coming at me to keep me occupied for a lifetime. However, I do see the benefits of the new site for publishers and, if my community starts to adopt The New Digg on a regular basis, I will likely follow and give it another try.