44 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Even in losing, how Digg won”

  1. They altered the media – they never were the media._They were so left wing and block all opinion of what they didnt like – their site plummeted because of this._They pretended to be the voice of people – they were not — they failed – serves them right.

    1. “they never were the media”…. Digg was once upon a time kicking it up there with the top 100 websites in the entire world in terms of traffic rank, just to put things in perspective. It was, very much so, a very large part of the media.

    2. Man, I felt just the opposite. I spent a lot of time on that site, then it seemed like every discussion was filled with right wingers and Ron Paul supporters. I like to listen to the other side, but it got so ridiculous I left and never went back. In my mind it will always be a haunt of the Right. Strange differences in experiences.

      1. All I ever saw was crazy left wing stuff. A single conservative comment would get absolutely pummeled.

  2. I have a great deal of respect for Kevin. I was listening to him the other day on a podcast. The dude is not afraid to fail and he owns what he did right and wrong at Digg. I like that in a leader. That obviously spawned like minded individuals and efforts.

    I agree it was a success in failure and they left some valuable lessons for the rest of us. Great post Om.

  3. A failure by companies like Digg, heavily supported by VCs, has yet another dimension: it has taken funding from other (now we can say) better startups.

    Of course, there is no guarantee that a startup will ever get any funding. No one should expect that. Still, I am sure there were plenty of guys as smart as Kevin Rose or Jay Adelson, who had to fold down simply because Digg was already “in the pipline,” as the VCs say.

    1. Well said.
      I can’t wait to see the faces of the Andreessen Horowitz crowd when I tell them: I have this idea; it’s going to fail, but it will be a victor anyway, b/c of its huge impact on the media/internet. Are you willing to invest a few millions in this “impact”?

      1. Victor

        I respectfully disagree with your characterization. The point of the post is that a company’s legacy isn’t just financial – it is a product and change, so let’s not forget in this case.

      1. That is why I wrote nobody is entitled to any funding. But “opportunity cost” is a real economic term and it should be a factor in any analysis of any successful and not-so-successful venture. Digg’s impact — to use your words — includes money lost in it and the loss of any revenue/profits from other alternative investments that could have been made instead.

        And, let’s face it, with all due respect to Kevin Rose (he is an investor as well) but Digg is not the only start-up he had started and failed miserably. How many other people can have so many second and third chances with so poor a record?

  4. Nice analysis. It is always this way in the tech. World – the pioneer disrupts and the followers perfect it to rule the market and make money.

  5. IS this a joke? I mean, I know GigaOm is scared shitless over losing their sole source of traffic…but still priasing Digg for changing anything?

    Facebook would still be as big today without Digg. So would Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest, etc. NOTHING would have changed. To this day, 98+% of Americnas have never HEARD of Digg.

    Granted, I know to GigaOm that sounds good, since 99.9% have nver heard of you…but still.

    1. @lakawak . Given that you are a guest here, I am just going to just say that i am pretty sure you didn’t read the post, but nevertheless thanks for sharing your opinion.

  6. Great post Om. Thank you for rekindling some great memories! 🙂

    To quote sully213 who commented on Kevin’s latest submission over at Digg

    “And, just one more time for the nostalgia:
    09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0”


  7. Great article. I want to throw out a question for you and everyone reading this though. You mentioned that “links are and will always be the atomic unit of the web.” Do you see anyone who is trying to change that? With mass adoption of ipv6 looming around the corner, generic TLDs coming, we know that the total of links on the web are not slowing down.

  8. This is a really great article Om, this is exactly the way I feel about what happened at Digg. I think Rose and co really did something amazing there, and even if it didn’t work out, it was such a ridiculous breeding ground of talent (I look at someone like Brian Wong, could he have started anywhere else?). I also think there was a remarkable openness about Digg, what they were trying to do was totally apparent to their community, and to everyone who worked there. I don’t think we can give Rose enough credit for that, because in a weird way he had a perfect training for what he had to do: reach a lot of people, and get them to pay attention, and “get it.” The fun-loving workaholic atmosphere of Digg at the time has helped shine a light on the joy of creating new stuff and trying to push a medium forward.

    Rose is still doing that with his founder interview series FOUNDATION, which feels like it should be a million dollar masterclass in chill world domination.

    The kid did good.

  9. I agree with the article on many levels. But the most important point I want to emphasize on is that when it comes to failure, the ‘talent’ that a company acquired and nurtured will far surpass any other asset, even for the VCs/investors that invested in it because that talent will go on to create more startups and will probably end up being supported by the same VCs, and may eventually yield a higher ROI than the failed investment. If I’m correct, I saw the same pattern for the startups mentioned in this article, in terms of investing in ex-talent.

  10. Lets not forget the Digg effect. I know hundreds of blogs experiencing outage when their post lands up on Digg homepage. I always remember Digg because of this.

  11. I dont know about the financial part – I do know that I visit digg.com more than twice daily – and so do many of you. A website that commands that kind of traffic is, to me, not done.


  12. Hate to break it to you, but digg could be created in six months by two developers. It was hardly revolutionary and was modeled after Slashdot.

  13. DIGG did change things on some scale. I liked some of the site, but it killed itself. The community killed itself. Rose knows this. He couldnt tame his own beast.

    DIGG was a news hack at best. Not social media.

  14. Om, Great perspective! It is right to measure the impact, not the dollars. At Napster we changed the world too, but didn’t make any money. I wouldn’t trade the Napster experience for any money. We learned a lot, had fun, changed the world, and paved the way for iTunes. I don’t think iTunes could have happened without Napster shaking up the industry.

    Digg people went on to start, and contribute to, lots of startups. Same thing at Napster, AltaVista, and many companies that didn’t succeed financially.

    Om, thanks for reminding us there is more to life than dollars.

    Don Dodge

  15. the spin machine has started to work.. “it’s wasn’t a failure – they were visionary?
    how much bs can kevin rose feed the valley?

  16. Why does Digg get a free pass? The valley is vicious in tearing down once promising companies that failed to exit at their peak. Yes, Digg did a lot of things well early on and were innovative. But so was Webvan!

    Bottom line: The Digg team failed to capitalize on early success and in doing so missed their opportunity. They are no better or worse than any other start up that struck out.

    1. I don’t think Digg got a free pass. They failed as an enterprise – very publicly and the demise was long, drawn out, torturous and painful.

      I think the point of the post was – look beyond just the $$$s and they did change things in a perceptible way. Apart from that all your criticism is justified.

  17. I think that this article did a good job of pointing out the other monies that Digg did bring in that people forget about.

  18. Sorry but no
    Digg was a big fail.
    And they had little excuse. Right place, right time. Based on the inner circle on CA.
    It failed because most of these start up fail. The hype of the internt and having traffic = 100 of million to billions in value is a perception that is a fallacy and cannot keep going.
    Dig failed as they missed the exit, drove into the desert and died the ugly death that follows.
    Saying they changed media and should be considered a success is rediculous.
    Media landscape was going to change anyway. Digg or the next guy. Who cares.
    At the end of the day they missed the exit.

    It was a fail.

    However Kevin has invested in some companies that have become important. That is something to be proud of. Digg.. No.

  19. Kevin Rose is a boss. I was lucky enough to come across the Digg office liquidation, now my start up is working off of Digg desks. I hope some of that success rubs off. 🙂

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