Some people say that the current Internet boom peaked when a national business magazine put a 29-year-old dude on the cover, declaring that the kid made $60 million in 18 months. Actually, Kevin Rose, founder of Digg.com, has yet to cash in. ("I ran to my checking account and logged in, but the money wasn't there," he says.) Nonetheless, Digg--which has users send in and rate news articles, blog postings and other Internet goodies--has had a huge impact. It's the 23rd most popular site on the Web (according to Alexa), and when an item has earned a sufficient number of "diggs" from users to make its front page, it's the digital equivalent of a starlet being discovered in a drugstore. On the weekly podcast Rose co-anchors (called Diggnation), he comes across as a cheerful slacker. But he's a serious guy when it comes to the subject of digital media.
ROSE: With Digg, the stories that are submitted to the site can be from a whole range of different sources. We've shown that a mass of users can really pull out the best content online. We find unique stories that no sane editor of a traditional Web site would put together, but for some reason the power of the collective mass is able to pull out these stories and promote them to the front of the site.
We really want to continue to drive traffic back to the original source and give credit back to the authors of the articles. It's really a symbiotic relationship between the two, because we can't exist without these good, quality sites and the content that is provided online, whether it comes from a blog or from a major media outlet.
From the time we launched we gave people the ability to view anything that a user is doing on the site, so if you Digg a story, if you comment on a story, if you Digg a comment, all of this is completely public information. I think that Facebook added some of these features a little later down the line, which might've been confusing to its community, but for us, it's been something that's existed since day one. It's something we promote on the site.
For me, the most interesting kind of next-generation Web 2.0 sites are the ones that are innovating. I launched Digg back in 2004 by funding it myself with just a few thousand dollars, so we were able to do a prototype and see if the concept would even work. It's a little scary that [now] a lot of companies are creating business plans and raising tons of money based on ideas that haven't launched. There's a lot of sites that are based purely on mash-ups of other services online, and I don't know how these sites are going to turn a profit.
From [the beginning] it's been our goal to build a successful, profitable company, and not to sell. I believe that we're just getting started. There are so many areas that we want to get into that, in my mind, the Web site's only 10 to 15 percent completed.
We're building a profile around your interests, so as you're Digging stories about, say, oolong tea and sports cars, we know that. The goal of Digg is to eventually be able to provide recommendations of stories based on your past Digging interests.
About a year and a half ago, when Paris Hilton had her cell phone hacked and someone had posted her pictures online. We were indexed by Google and Yahoo the next morning. We only had two Web servers then, and the huge volume of traffic took us offline for almost 48 hours. It really spoke to the fact that Digg was working--we were breaking news stories before traditional media outlets.