Digg Just Might Bury Slashdot

A hot new social-bookmarking site is deluging web servers all over the net with a tsunami of traffic – and is starting to make Slashdot-size waves.

Digg, a San Francisco news site compiled by its own readers, lists links to interesting new technology articles. A mention on the front page can cripple a server for days, in a pattern that mirrors the famed Slashdot effect.

Although the two sites employ different publishing techniques — editors maintain 7-year-old tech granddaddy Slashdot, while Digg runs stories proposed and voted on by members — many are calling the upstart a “Slashdot killer.”

The comparisons are clear — while the official term for adding a link to Digg is “digging,” popular sites that receive a huge wave of traffic get a “Diggdotting,” a nod to “Slashdotting.”

Digg’s status as the new Slashdot is further enhanced by digg vs dot, a comparison project that finds diggers are usually first to the punch, though users of each site often submit identical stories.

Celebrating its first birthday this month, Digg’s traffic is fast catching up with Slashdot’s. Its 80,000-user base is doubling every three months, and the surprised owners of linked-to websites are feeling the results of its popularity.

“My site was virtually unknown to anyone besides friends, but when my story made it to the front page of Digg, my stats skyrocketed,” said Jesse Crouch of Springfield, Illinois, whose blog leapt from 400 daily visitors to more than 7,000 when his tutorial on small-budget photography was picked up by Digg last week.

“When (the CPU) hit 100 percent for a few moments, I was worried,” Crouch said. “My server had never experienced anything like this before, and when your site finally gets some exposure, it’s the worst possible time for it to go down.”

The effect is felt far and wide. Digg gets up to 1,000 links submitted every day and 500,000 visitors, radiating traffic around the web. Its growth has been so pronounced that the site’s own server melted down earlier this month.

But extra infrastructure and new staff will be added, thanks to a $2.8 million investment from a high-profile consortium of investors, including Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen.

“Digg is quite different from (older) sites,” said founder Kevin Rose. “Slashdot is put together by an editorial board. Digg uses the collective wisdom of the masses and, consequently, news breaks faster.”

Such growth, and the absence of formal editors, has prompted concerns that unscrupulous marketers could tap Digg to bring lucrative traffic to attention-seeking clients.

But David Kirk, a designer whose tech-recipes site is routinely pounded by Digg links, cautions webmasters against expecting dollar signs.

“People try to game Digg every day, but we only see minor bumps in our advertising income on the days that we have experienced the Digg effect,” he said. “Digg users visit, look around and move on (without clicking ads). For many sites, that increase in income would not even cover the increased cost of bandwidth used.”

Critics also say Digg is more chaotic than Slashdot, which often features more technical, detailed conversations. But Digg, with its tight weblog integration and Flickr-like reliance on the collective efforts of its members, is pointing the way to a new wave of socially assembled news initiatives, organized and made sense of by readers themselves.

Sites like del.icio.us or the soon-to-be-unveiled Newsvine, which will let readers bookmark, share and reply to online stories from a range of news organizations, are examples of that wave.

“We plan to expand into a variety of other areas including science and political news, developing new areas that will be similar to sections of a newspaper,” said Rose. “People like Digg because it’s fast, convenient and relevant. They feel like they are contributing and driving honesty in media as a result of digging.”