2009: The Year of Digg and Twitter
Social media hit a tipping point in 2009 as sites like Facebook and YouTube increased their presence in mainstream media while sites like Twitter and Digg emerged. On top of the obvious, thousands of new and legitimate social media websites hit the scene with hopes of being the "next big thing".
While most credit and attention are being given to Facebook for unofficially winning the social networking battle with MySpace, Bebo, and others, Twitter and Digg were the real winners in 2009 for very different reasons.
Twitter got Hip and it's getting Hipper
In 2008, most of the buzz, minimal as it was compared to now, that circled around Twitter was about when and why it would fail. Not having a revenue model, going down regularly, and being too simple to succeed were just some of the reasons that many expected it to fail sometime in 2009. Microblogging was fun, but it didn't have a chance at being relevant to many experts and users alike.
Fastforward to early- to mid-2009 and the criticisms shifted. It became hip thanks to celebrities, corporations, and news agencies embracing it. Even the President had a substantial Twitter account (though it was recently revealed that he doesn't actually use Twitter). The criticism continued about the revenue model and the site going down even after the relevance issue was dismissed.
Despite all of that, Twitter is going into 2010 with high hopes, plenty of operating cash, and only sporadic signs of its growth slowing. Deals with Bing and Google helped to solidify the site's importance as real-time search takes shape. After all of the hoopla and negativity, Twitter ended up winning bit in 2009 and seems poised for a breakthrough 2010.
Digg survived and improved while others fell short
Social news, an aspect of social media that involves web-content getting "voted" up or down based upon its merits and how well it appeals to the various communities, saw some increases in importance in 2009 thanks to other forms of social media.
Digg kept its reign over of the social news arena by doing something that it missed in 2007 and 2008. It improved. The site has been the recipient of criticism amongst the tech elite and within its own community for the last few years thanks to a "growth by default" attitude and an inability to turn a profit.
2009 was different. They integrated innovations in the way they made money that appear to be much more effective than previous failed attempts. While the financial numbers are not out, the outlook seems much more positive and the presence of more direct advertisers taking advantage of the new models is promising.
Beyond revenue, Digg had several intelligent innovations that have improved the user experience for most and that encourage growth, including:
- Integration with Facebook and Twitter
- The opening of the API to allow writable apps
- Digg Trends beta release, helping to fill the hole of "old news" that has haunted the site since inception
- Implementation of Digg Town Hall meetings to communicate directly with the community and address concerns
There were some failures such as the "improved" Digg search and duplicate story detector and the Diggbar fiasco, but overall they made improvements.
Still, much of their success was based upon failures. Competitors such as Mixx and Propeller seemed to fade from the social news aspect and started embracing more networking. Reddit, the only real competitor to Digg, did little to expand or innovate. When it comes to social news, Digg is still way on top and widened the gap in 2009. Like Twitter, they are poised for an exceptional 2010.
What about Facebook?
If you ask the average American who grew the most in 2009, most would be correct to anoint Facebook as the big winner. Facebook Connect has proven to be a tremendous success so far and the company spent most of 2009 proving that it wasn't run by morons.
The challenge that they face in 2010 is the one glaring problem that they didn't address in 2009. Will they buckle under their own weight? Issues such as spam, security, privacy - they were not only not addressed properly but in many ways they have grown. The popularity of the site mixed with the glaring holes that they didn't fill made 2009 less successful than it could have been.
In the end, all three sites should experience amazing success in 2010. The real question is: What unknown website will emerge in 2010 to give the three of them a run for their money?