The main problem I have with Digg these days is that I have to go to digg.com to use it. Sure, there are other ways to see stories on the site, such as RSS. But if you want to Digg a story, you have to go to the site. Not anymore.
Today, Digg has launched its DiggBar tool. Simply put, it looks amazing.
It’s a toolbar overlay that can be attached to any web page simply by adding “digg.com/” before any URL. That’s a little clunky (more on that below), but it’s very powerful.
Say you see a story on VentureBeat that you like and want to digg. You simply place “digg.com/” before the URL, and it will place the toolbar over the page. From here you can digg the story with one click or submit the story to Digg if that hasn’t been done yet. But you can also see comments on the story if it has been dugg. And one of the most interesting features is that you can see how many page views a site has gotten as a result of being dugg.
You can also see related stories that have been dugg, and clicking on any of them in the toolbar will take you to the actual page (with the DiggBar still on top of it) rather than to Digg itself. And there is a “Random” button that lets you trip your way through cool things on the web similar to the way StumbleUpon‘s toolbar works.
You can also easily see other stories from the same site that have been dugg, which will undoubtedly make site owners encourage the use of the DiggBar. And they’re likely to share stuff with DiggBar URLs because it makes it so easy to Digg stories, which of course means traffic if it gets dugg enough.
And that’s the real killer feature here, the built-in URL shortener. When you use the DiggBar, all URLs are changed from their long form into one that looks more like “http://digg.com/d8sj3.” Using that new short URL, you can easily share something on Twitter, Facebook or email — and the DiggBar even has icons to do that.
URL shortening is a hot field recently, thanks mostly to the rise in popularity of Twitter which only lets you say things in 140 characters or less. What this URL shortening feature also means is that Digg won’t lose all those millions of page views it gets from people visiting its site to find stuff to digg. The digg.com domain should see an explosion in hits thanks to the DiggBar.
Of course, traffic has never been a problem for Digg, but effect monetization has. The DiggBar features ads when you activate some of the dropdowns, but it’s not clear if that’s the only plan for Digg to monetize DiggBar. That doesn’t seem like the hottest solution, but let’s be clear: Digg probably has much loftier goals with this product. This is Digg’s attempt to make itself a much more central point of sharing content on the web.
That’s what makes this DiggBar really interesting; Digg is shifting the focus away from its main website and attempting to make its service something much more than a glorified link dump for cool stuff. You know who else wants to be the center for sharing stuff on the web? Facebook. But while Facebook also has a toolbar that it overlays on pages when you click on a link from its site, it’s nowhere near as useful as this is. And Digg rightly plays nice with Facebook and Twitter — it doesn’t care where you share the content, it just wants you to share the content, with its URLs and toolbar attached.
Others, such as the aforementioned StumbleUpon (with the soon to launch su.pr) and smaller sites like ReadBurner (with BurnURL) have taken or will take similar approaches with a toolbar, but Digg’s is the slickest I’ve ever seen. And I think people will use it.
Every link you click on from Digg now includes the DiggBar (you can click the “X” to remove it) — that alone is huge. The company just needs to make using the DiggBar a little cleaner than altering URLs for less savvy users. Might I suggest a bookmarklet?
Update: Looks like there is a bookmarklet, Digg just failed to mention it in its post or video. You can find it on the Tools page of Digg [thanks Benjamin!].
DiggBar from Kevin Rose on Vimeo.