Former social media giant Digg sold for a pittance

Digg parceled up and sold off for a tenth of its peak value.

The social news site Digg was once a powerhouse of the internet, back in the days when Web 2.0 was a phrase still used unironically, but a combination of terrible spam filters and a disastrous upgrade which alienated its users by favouring corporate submissions meant that it lost much of its fanbase to upstarts like Reddit. Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the site has been sold for just $500,000 to New York City based tech firm Betaworks.

It's not quite as bad as it sounds for Digg, though. Much of the company had already been comprehensively strip-mined in the preceding months, making the total buyout closer to $16m or so. In May, the Washington Post launched a talent acquisition, which ended up nabbing 15 of the site's engineers for a reported $12m. Sometime between then and now, LinkedIn, the Facebook where fun goes to die, acquired some of Digg's IP, including 15 patents like "click a button to vote up a story" (which I believe is US 2008/0178081 A1, "System and method for guiding non-technical people in using web services"), for which they paid "between $3.75m and $4m", according to TechCrunch.

It was only after those buyouts that Betaworks got involved, cleaning up everything left, including the domain, code, data, and, crucially, traffic. As Frederic Lardinois points out, that traffic alone makes in a year the $500,000 that Betaworks was reported to have paid by some. Why the discrepancy? Two reasons: firstly, Betaworks will need to pay licensing fees to LinkedIn for those patents in order to run the site. It's unknown what the terms are, but they won't be cheap. Secondly, the half million is just Betaworks' cash payment. They also gave an undisclosed amount in equity; the New York Times' Nick Bilton reports it as "single-digit millions".

Regardless of whether this feels like a $20m or a $0.5m acquisition, though, it still underlines the rapidity of Digg's fall from grace. At its peak, it was worth $160m, and its founder Kevin Rose had a personal vlauation of $60m. But when the community leaves, a social site is nothing. Will Digg be the next Flickr or Del.icio.us? Or is it already that?

Kevin Rose, Digg's founder, in better days - 2006, to be precise. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.