The Lookout

Digg, dug: a salute to the revered social news site, sold for peanuts

The Lookout

Born in Redding, Calif., Kevin Rose grew up in Las Vegas, kind of went to vo-tech high school and then dutifully dropped out of college, where he briefly majored in, you guessed it, computer science. Rose has an easy, cool style, seasoned with just enough contempt to keep amateurs and girls in thrall—and he collaborates well with other cool computer guys. The onetime co-host of a groovy TechTV show, "The Screen Savers," Rose is a venture partner at Google. He also founded iconic tech companies: Revision3, Pownce, Milk and the once-great Digg, which was sold for a pittance to Betaworks on Thursday.

Digg, the revered social news site, was once the apple of Rose's eye, and the word alone conferred deep Internet legitimacy on a project. If you got an article featured on Digg—meaning lots and lots of readers had to "Digg" it, which, unlike Facebook liking, only in-the-know readers did—you'd arrived. It meant that the kids that seemed to really run the Web show—on the level of code, in real San Francisco—had tapped you. Even if just for the day.

Since the dawn of the Web, observers have complained that there's too much on it; that curation and editing and anthologizing is required. Kevin Rose's Digg project was a curation project par excellence—but not a populist one, like Facebook likes, or a dictatorial one, like Google Search. It was a cliquey one. A group of pacesetters with lightning reflexes and carefully circumscribed taste would "vote up" the stories they liked, the ones that suited their politics and aesthetics. And then their choices would be featured on the Digg site. So you could get good, pure, charcoal-filtered news that way. (Mostly it was left-leaning and radically pro-tech.)

That particular strain of elitism, before Facebook persuaded almost everyone that they have a home and a say on the Internet, is not in vogue anymore. Digg used to drive traffic, and especially what seemed like the right kind of traffic. But, over two days this month, according to, a New York-based company that analyzes Internet traffic, more than half of traffic referrals came through Google, about 14.3 percent through Facebook. And 6 percent through Yahoo! Digg drove just 0.35 percent.

That just wasn't enough influence for Rose's successors (Rose left the company he founded in 2010), and so they unloaded Digg to Betaworks for $500,000. I'm sure no one at the headquarters is shedding a tear. Rose, who is 35, is part of a generation that savors change and rejects nostalgia.

Digg's being disbanded and room is now made for another startup? I bet the Digg guys digg it.

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