Digg has rolled out a whack of new features. So many, in fact, that it prompted many to ask “is this v4?” However, no one from the Digg camp has referred to this as a new version, so lets not go there.
With this upgrade came some new features, some features removed and left us scratching our head about the whereabouts of some oft-promised vapor-features.
First we’ll look at what has been added.
The first thing you’ll notice when visiting the new Digg is a change to their interface. It can now stretch to 1280 wide and the navigation has been moved from the left to the top, a welcome change for wide-screen monitor users. Also, News, Videos and Podcasts now each have their own sections.
Top 10s and Hot Stories
If you look towards the right of the screen, you will now see the top 10 hottest stories (or videos) of the moment. As you drill down through the different topics or switch over to the Upcoming section, the top 10 list changes accordingly. Since the launch of v3, many have noted how much faster Digg moves, both on the front page and in the queue. This new feature is intended to help you cut through that speed and discover the most interesting news and videos of the moment.
Videos from YouTube and other supported video services can now be watched without leaving digg, by pressing a Play icon on their thumbnail. Videos pop up in a slick light box interface and the user can Digg them on the spot. This marks the first time Digg users do not have to leave the site to consume the content aggregated on the site.
The largest addition by far is the new support for podcasts. Digg has added a whole section dedicated to podcasts, which complements their News and Videos sections. Here, you can listen to, watch, digg and discuss episodes of your favorite podcasts.
You can also digg entire podcasts, kind of like digging a website instead of an article. This is another new concept in Digg land. Naturally, Diggnation is currently at the top of the pack. It will be interesting to see if this changes over time.
Digg’s Podcast section could very well serve as a one-stop-shop for all your podcast consuming needs. New episodes are added automatically once a podcast has been submitted to Digg. And you can take your podcasts with you by going to the podcast tab in your profile and grabbing the OPML file.
This is the first time Digg has gotten its OPML on and hopefully it means we’ll see more in the future. I would love to see more OPML usage on Digg (eg. an OPML file for a user which contains links to their diggs, submits, comments and front pagers).
Another interesting thing Digg quietly unveiled with its podcast support is a concept called Active Digging Technology. You can read about it in their podcasting FAQ. Basically, when you Digg a podcast, your Digg only persists as long as you don’t go away for 2 weeks. If you don’t log into Digg for 2 weeks, any of your diggs on podcasts are removed. Could this be a sign of things to come? There are certainly some interesting things you could do with this technology.
What was Removed?
You can no longer see who has befriended you on Digg. That is, the link to that page is gone. You can still access it by going to the following URL and replacing my user name with your own, but since they no longer link to this from anywhere on the site, I wouldn’t count on it being around for much longer:
The question is: why would a site that thrives on social behavior remove such a key social feature? Certainly there are many who will frown on this and call it anti-social. Meanwhile, many others believe that greater anonymity on social news sites would increase the overall quality. Either way, from now on you’ll have to rely on looking through other users’ profiles to see if they have befriended you.
What is Yet to Come?
Remember before Digg v3 came out when we were hyped about a feature being added that would let us resurrect stories that were buried unfairly? The ‘bury’ function is routinely abused on Digg and this would be a very useful tool to counter it.
Back in September, there was a big uproar about the top-ranked Digg users allegedly gaming the system. As a result, Kevin Rose promised that changes will be implemented and new features would be added to the top users page to differentiate between users who are adept submitters of quality content and users who are good at spotting what stories will be hot on Digg once they have been submitted.
I talk regularly with a lot of Digg users, and among them, the #1 most wanted change on Digg is greater performance. Digg is by far the slowest web page that I use. In the age of broadband there are few sites that could attract as many users as Digg while taking 10+ seconds to load a page. I understand that the more friends you have on the site, the slower it can get. Many of us have also been spoiled by the speed of other social news sites, but here’s hoping that Digg has a mind to speed things up a little.
Derek van Vliet is a Toronto, Ontario native who has been programming for most of his life. In the last year he has been active in social news. He is currently a top 10-ranked user on Digg where he goes by the name BloodJunkie. He is also a professional social bookmarker (aka Navigator) on Netscape, where he goes by the name Neophile. Check his blog at http://neothoughts.com.