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Summary:

In the early days when personal video recording was introduced by TiVo, many were enthralled by its seemingly elegant solution. The company charged quite a premium for its devices, and yet fostered a passionate community, dubbed Tivo-ted. In the years that followed, TiVo inspired a lot […]

In the early days when personal video recording was introduced by TiVo, many were enthralled by its seemingly elegant solution. The company charged quite a premium for its devices, and yet fostered a passionate community, dubbed Tivo-ted. In the years that followed, TiVo inspired a lot of, how should I put it politely, Xeroxes. Some are not even around, but the technology called PVR is now common place. Set-top box makers, open source downloads and OS makers have turned TiVo-type PVR into a commodity.

Does a similar fate await San Francisco-based Digg, the start-up behind the social news site of the same name?

Digg will always be known as the web service that brought vox populi to the assembly of the news front page. Now its voting system has found its way into new offerings from Netscape, Yahoo, Dell (WTF) and now Microsoft’s MSN Reporter offering. (A good comparison of the three new offerings is here.) This may not be the last Digg-like experiment.

Is this bad news for Digg?

On the surface it seems yes. But there was a reason I brought up the TiVo example. Comcast has a PVR service built into is set-top box, except it is a bear to deal with. TiVo’s UI is what makes it special and different.

Same goes for Digg, which will have to continue to innovate to stay ahead of those it inspires. Like TiVo, Digg has a very passionate community. TiVo’s community of users has kept the company going through the lean years, and now the tide seems to be turning… slowly.

A lot of people say Digg took away the sizzle from Slashdot, the first geek community of its kind. Not true, because Slashdot is still thriving, thanks to those who love that site. Similarly, community is Digg’s biggest strength, and that is what is going to separate it from the pretenders.
Kevin Rose will have to work his tail off to ensure that they remain part of the Digg Nation. The only thing not going in favor of Digg: like TiVo, Digg’s time for fetching a ridiculous premium from a likely buyer might be in the past.

By Om Malik

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  1. For anyone interested, I put together a chart that compares the features and “Digg-like”-ness of the three new voting platforms by Yahoo, Dell, and Microsoft:

    http://www.computers.net/2007/02/justhowdiggli.html

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  2. TiVo continues to innovate but our research at Forrester shows that consumers only care about three things: record all episodes of a show, pause live TV, skip commercials easily. And all the PVRs do these just fine.

    But TiVo may yet become profitable based on its patents.

    Looking at the parallel, does Digg have any patents that are relevant in this race? Can they enforce them?

    Another key element — Web 2.0 companies tend to dominate categories due to network effects — it’s hard for the new guy to get traction when everybody’s over at digg (or YouTube, or MySpace, or del.icio.us, etc.)

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  3. They key thing to remember is that Digg is a concept that can be very easily duplicated. And why shouldn’t it be copied in the masses. Companies are all about making money, not playing nice in the sandbox. If they see a good idea that can be easily exploited into their backyard then why not do it. The casulties usually end up being those first guys but that is the way of business and progress. Bravo to Yahoo, MSN, Dell, and Netscape…adcancement is a good thing.

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  4. I’m not sure I agree with the statement that Slashdot is still thriving.. I used to use Slashdot exclusively until someone finally showed me what Digg was up to. Now for the most part whenever I go to Slashdot, most of the articles on the front page I recognize from being on Digg in the last few hours. It almost seems like it’s simply a time delayed version of Digg on some days.

    I used to really love going to Slashdot though.

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  5. I am not sure TiVo and Digg are comparable. Digg’s value comes from the network of users bubbling up an important story. TiVo’s came from the content the consumer could store.

    Comcast controlled the content, which users had to get anyway and managed to capture TiVo’s base by reaching out to those consumers who were not yet using TiVo, and helping them use PVR without pain of installation (through its cable guys and installation charges).

    Not clear how Digg’s competitors can do that.

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