What is Digg? If you ask its users, the mantra can usually be summed up pretty simply: power to the people. Ask the designers and engineers behind it, however, and what comes back seems bewildered — and now, we have to wonder, are we watching Digg burn up from the inside?
At the end of August Digg rolled out its fourth iteration, Digg v4, and it was met — much like the updates before it — with massive resistance from veteran Digg users.
These aren't just nitpicks about the page redesign (though there were many), but many argued that Digg v4 took the focus away from users and gave it instead to content publishers. Similarly, the second version of Digg introduced an algorithm that entirely removed the transparency the site enjoyed, making what story gains enough popularity to get on the front page a little more ambiguous.
After almost every Digg update, the site has had to make concessions to appease users. It looks like this update will be no different despite Rose's initial insistence that traffic was up and times were good. Times were not good: former Digg CEO Jay Adelson got the boot, staff were laid off and it was found out that traffic was making a nose dive. What's more, Rose himself may not stay on at Digg very much longer.
Asked about his own future at Digg, Rose wouldn't go into details, but said that he was getting "burned out" and wouldn't say that he would still be at Digg by the end of the year. Rose is clearly very interested in continuing his work as an angel investor - something he seemed far more passionate about than Digg during today's interview…
Only time will tell if Digg tries to roll back and appease its loyal fanbase or if this is finally the last straw that will have Diggers looking elsewhere. Digg exists in a tough space: it needs to honor the users who built up the site, attract attention (and money) from content providers, and make itself a place where non-regulars can visit and find interesting.
Right now, with traffic down, users pissed and — as a result of said traffic — content providers' interest waning, Digg appears to be failing on all those levels.