Psst, Want to Buy a Thoof?

Personalized social news site Thoof is on the block, we’ve learned. The Austin, Texas-based startup was one of many angling to deliver news better than Digg, but instead ended up as a lightly trafficked also-ran, confirming that in the wild world of Web 2.0, the first mover advantage can be hard to beat. Ian Clarke, the site’s CEO and one of the founders of video site Revver, declined to comment on Thoof’s situation.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Thoof Co-founder, COO and CTO Alan Ren is no longer with the company. Austin Ventures, which had put seed funding into the site, didn’t return requests for comment.

Thoof combined community features like those offered by Digg, whereby users could vote on the news they were most interested in, with wiki functionality that allowed people to edit articles. Through visits, the site’s recommendation software learned what a reader wanted, and over time strove to deliver a personalized list of news to users.

The site wasn’t bad, and the technology seemed to work, but the space is too crowded, especially if you consider how many people get their news from personalized feeds. Depending on how good the company’s recommendation technology is, a range of suitors could emerge for the company, from big media to an Internet portal.

As of this writing, the company’s web site didn’t work, but it was up on Jan. 16, so that may be a temporary problem. Or it may be a sign the company has moved from being on the block to off the web entirely.

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