As an avid user of StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Hacker News, etc., I found an article written by Brent Csutoras on SearchEngineLand intriguing. Csutoras was curious about why people are not protesting the new version of StumbleUpon when compared to the DiggBar.
StumbleUpon has 20 million users and they recently continued to move away from the focus on the website and more towards getting people to use their toolbar whether it is “iframed” or installed.
“One particular change that really surprised me was the removal of all direct links pointing back to the content sources from within StumbleUpon,” stated Csutoras. “Not only are they now iframing all content from the site, but if your logged into StumbleUpon, they are not even offering a way to remove the iframed toolbar, leaving you in stuck in the iframed version of the site. If you are not logged in, then there is an option to click X in the right side of the toolbar to remove it.” He also added that there was a lack of uprise from the tech industry and marketers on the recent change. When Digg launched the DiggBar, the tech industry heavily protested.
Here are my thoughts. Each social bookmarking website was unique in their own way. Digg was dominating in 2008 because their system was dead simple and their community was passionate. Web publishers benefitted because the Digg button linked directly to their website, which drove a lot of traffic to them. When Kevin Rose and the Diggsters decided to create the DiggBar, people took it personally because they viewed him as trying to be a StumbleUpon wannabe and they believed that Digg was just trying to retain people from staying on their website at the cost of the users by sticking this terribly designed and clunky bar on top of the publisher’s website.
StumbleUpon had a clunky toolbar from the beginning. People knew that they had to install a toolbar on Firefox or Internet Explorer back then just to use the service. After accepting that expectation, they had no reason to protest when the web version of the toolbar came out. It just made their life more convenient and they aren’t forced to use the web toolbar at all.
If Digg required a clunky toolbar to use their service to begin with, people would not have minded a web-version of that toolbar (DiggBar). The other thing that pissed off Digg users, including myself was the removal of the shouts feature. If I find an interesting Digg article, I wanted to immediately share it with my Digg friends like Muhammad Saleem, Andrew Sorcini, Miguel Lopez, etc. Forcing people to share content on Twitter and Facebook was a terrible idea. Those social networks are not supposed to be used to encourage users to join Digg in order to vote for your link. It is better to share content WITH EXISTING USERS! Digg appeared to be trying to sign up new users from Facebook and Twitter’s hundreds of millions of users. People that want to be a part of the Digg community will join it.
Those are the reasons why people protested Digg and not StumbleUpon. Digg changed their entire user experience because they got greedy. They wanted to gain more users by soliciting other social networks and retain traffic with the DiggBar. StumbleUpon’s changes were subtle and just made life easier for people. They did not force users to use Twitter and Facebook to share links in an attempt to gain more users.