Digg Gets Kiss From a Rose

The technology news-filtering service Digg was dreamed up when founder Kevin Rose witnessed TV’s tech bubble bursting from the inside.

Rose, 28, was known to many as a host of The Screen Savers, a long-running computer show on the TechTV cable channel, until the network was swallowed up by Comcast’s G4 video-game channel in May 2004, prompting his exit.

Meanwhile, Rose had built a strong following, and his TV fans followed him to several new ventures after he and some former broadcast colleagues formed a company, Revision3 Studios, to produce technology-centric video podcasts.

It was with one Revision3 cohort, technologist Jay Adelson, that Rose got the idea for a website that would let the audience sift through the gamut of worldwide tech news stories too vast for a one-person editorial team to cover alone.

Despite digging deeper into the space occupied by Slashdot, Rose can credit that site’s founder, Rob Malda, as the original inspiration for his project. During a lunchtime meeting in preparation for interviewing Malda last year, Rose realized that his ambivalence about adding more social features to Slashdot had highlighted an important gap in the user-organized news market he is now helping to create.

“Digg’s popularity is growing from its ability to prioritize content based on actual user interest rather than editorial assumptions,” said Rose.

In October 2004, Rose enlisted buddy Owen Byrne and designer Dan Rice to develop the backend for the fledgling site. A month later, Digg — running off PHP, MySQL and 1 GB of memory — launched to a warm response before Rose was joined in the effort by webmaster Ron Gorodetzky and Jay Adelson, a founder of data center firm Equinix who serves as CEO for Digg and Revision3.

So nervous was Rose, however, about his broadcast-era fans learning of the new venture and turning it into a Kevin Rose appreciation society that he entrusted registration of the digg.com domain (dig.com was too pricey) to a high-school friend, Jerimiah Udy, so that his name wouldn’t be linked to the project. Still, any nominated story that happens to name-check Rose is certain to be promoted to the top of the front page by users.

A version 2.0 of Digg was launched this summer, borrowing features from social-software services like del.icio.us and adding broadcast immediacy through a page featuring a rolling list of live news links, appearing on the site in real time as they are posted by readers.

Revision3 also produces several vidcasts and a weekly half-hour online TV show, Diggnation, in which Rose and fellow ex-Screen Saver Alex Albrecht chat about the week’s most popular stories, as dug by Diggers themselves.