For an introduction to the concept behind Digg, see A Beginner’s Guide to Community Driven Web Content. This post assumes you know what “Digg-like” means and will dive into the pros and cons / advantages and disadvantages of the top 5 Digg-like sites (read: community driven web content sites; it’s just easier to say Digg-like). The sites to be compared are Digg, Netscape, Reddit, Newsvine, and Shoutwire.
In parenthesis is the site’s Alexa rating (a universally accepted even if flawed rating system for traffic of a website with 1 being the rating for the website with the most traffic: Yahoo). Following the rating is a quick blurb giving the overall impression after which is a more detailed description of each site.
Note: there may be other Digg-like sites not mentioned here that might have higher Alexa ratings. The “Top 5” refers more specifically to the “Top 5 Digg-like Sites with which Computers.net is most familiar through having received huge amounts of traffic from each.” For a more exhaustive list that claims it lists all Digg-style sites, check out this resource.
Digg (85) – The intuitive and bloated
Digg pioneered the community driven voting-for-content concept and definitely has the first mover advantage. The site now has over 600,000 registered users and is in the top 100 sites on the Internet with millions of visitors per month. The site also looks and feels more natural than any of its competitors. It pulls off the sophisticated-yet-simple look and is by far the easiest to navigate and/or explain to new users. Digg is also likely to have the latest and greatest content much faster due to its large membership and dedicated diggers always on the look out for breaking stories.
But Digg isn’t perfect. No matter how fast your internet connection, Digg is slow. You can almost take a coffee break while switching from page to page. Also, Digg is plagued with duplicate stories (referred to as “dupes”). For every story that makes the front page, there are probably ten similar submissions. So when browsing for new stories, it can be frustrating to sift through ten versions of every story (or however many). Though the front page generally has high quality content, the up-and-coming section is bloated with dupes and poor submissions.
So you could just stick to browsing only the front page, but then if everyone did that, no stories would be promoted to the front page (or at least the promoted stories would only be a result of the few browsing up-and-coming stories instead of the masses). Also, Digg ranks its members by their contribution to the site overall. And Digg members can befriend each other to follow and help promote each other’s stories. While these features help build the community, they also make it such that certain networks of friends provide much, if not most, of the front page content of Digg thereby nullifying the idea that the content is generated by the overall community.
But Digg is aware of these issues and continues to implement new methods for the system to autocorrect and allow for greater diversity or more promoted stories from more people.
Netscape (444) – The big brother and late comer
Netscape was already popular, even if declining in popularity, when it decided to switch to a Digg-like site. The main difference is that Netscape mixes user submitted content with editorial content provided by Netscape’s “Anchors.” Also, Netscape pays its top submitters called “navigators” (the whole thing caused quite a bit controversy because Netscape “hired away” top Digg users). Aside from submitting content, these anchors and navigators go through submitted content and remove spam and duplicates. They also recommend certain submissions they’re impressed with, which are then automatically placed on the front page of the site.
Parts of the site look and feel similar to Digg, but mostly in concept. It doesn’t feel as clean or neat. The content itself isn’t bad and the categories are significantly different enough from Digg that you get certain stories that might not have found as much interest at Digg. But officially giving a select few more power has left many with a bad taste in their mouth (mostly Digg users, even if some of them unofficially have the same power over at Digg because of their status). Bottom line: nice try, Netscape, but you’ve got to come up with something more unique before anyone other than your existing users will pay attention.
Reddit (866) – The simple and speedy
Reddit is similar to Digg in that it doesn’t have official, more powerful users like Netscape, and its layout is clean and simple (but different from Digg instead of more of a copy like other sites). Submitting and browsing for content is even faster and simpler than Digg in that Reddit only asks for a descriptive title with no need for an additional description.
The way a story gets promoted is a little different. Each user votes either for or against any given article/submission. Reddit’s front page is by default the “hot” category or those articles that are getting a lot of votes. But what’s different is that many articles that are “hot” aren’t necessarily the ones with the most positive votes. They may have relatively few positive votes even if a lot of people are voting both positive and negative. So sometimes the “hot” section includes more controversial stories or stories that users have mixed feelings about.
Another interesting feature of Reddit is its recommended category, which looks at what you have voted for and gives you a front page of stories based on your previous preferences. And it actually works and figures out quite nicely what you like based on your previous interests. Or if you’re interested in the more traditional browse through the most popular front page, you can check out the category called “browse.”
Bottom line: Reddit is fast and unique with some interesting features like the recommended system. Though the overall look and feel makes sense, it may be almost a little too simple for your average non-techie user that might want a little more hand holding before sticking around. But who knows? Reddit may or may not be interested in attracting that customer base.
Newsvine (3,120) – The slick and glossy
Newsvine looks and feels the most like your traditional portal page such as MSN. It has the typical interface for promoting stories but adds some uniqueness by allowing users to create their own column or blog within their Newsvine profile. Users can even get a cut of advertising revenue if getting enough people to visit their column. The site also has communities that users can join based on their interests.
The downside to Newsvine is just how busy it feels. In the paragraph above, I’ve only scratched the surface of all the available features at the site. While it seems really cool on the surface, it can be kind of confusing to get started with dozens and dozens of links on every page that take you all over the place (sometimes not necessarily where you were hoping). Even if feature full with a slick and inviting interface, it seems to have a high learning curve.
Shoutwire (6,290) – The political and ad-full
Shoutwire was one of the first Digg clones released and is best known for its political content, something Digg didn’t have at the time (Digg added its political category in June of 2006). Shoutwire also has some editorial content like Netscape, though it’s not as much of the focus.
There’s not much to say about Shoutwire. It feels like a watered-down Digg, though that can be a compliment. It doesn’t really have the duplicate story problem. And one unique feature is that a map is embedded into every submission which shows where in the world each of the story promoters are.
Digg is probably still the best at doing what it pioneered, though each of these newcomers has something new to add to the mix. Reddit is fast and has a nice recommender system. Netscape and Shoutwire have some interesting categories. And Newsvine may be the most unique yet even if the most complicated.