The topic of discussion is, of course, TechCrunch's rumor that Digg will soon be acquired by Google for somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million. Digg's users are debating what Google acquiring Digg might mean for their community in this thread on the site. The question is, would being controlled by a big company like Google ruin--or enhance--the community that Digg has worked so hard to build?
Some background on Web 2.0 acquisitions
A few of the major Web 2.0 sites that have been acquired by big companies include YouTube, Flickr, and MySpace. Each of these sites has been greatly affected by being acquired by a larger company.
Once it was acquired by Google, YouTube was forced to take down much of the copyrighted material that had helped it rise to popularity. I would argue that YouTube has benefited from the financial backing and support that Google was able to provide, so the acquisition may have been a necessity at the time.
Flickr has seen little to no improvements in the way of new features, aside from Flickr Video, since being acquired by Yahoo. Despite the lack of innovative new features at Flickr, its photo community is stronger than ever, thanks in no small part, to Yahoo's ownership.
Although MySpace is still a force to be reckoned with on the Internet, especially in the music scene, it has watched its seemingly insurmountable lead in the social-networking space slip through its fingers and into Facebook's. Whether this is due to being bought by News Corp. is purely speculation, but the influence of the big media company may not have helped.
Why does Google want Digg?
In the case of Digg, Google would clearly be buying the site to acquire Digg's community. Digg has one of the strongest communities in the social-media space. Google certainly has the engineering power to build a site similar to Digg, or Yahoo Buzz, if it wanted to. But what it is really after is the people. If we can agree that Google wants the community, it would only make logical sense that the company would do whatever it could to keep that community happy and to get it to stay, post-acquisition.
How Google would change Digg
The other side of the coin that must be considered is the volume of people who would be streaming into Digg if it is acquired by Google. The added promotion of the Internet giant would send lots of newcomers to the site, who could break the delicate dynamic that Digg has right now. Digg suddenly being flooded by gardening tips, for example, might drive away a lot of the core users. Digg would, almost certainly, survive under mainstream attention, even thrive. But it could become a very different place from what we see today. The category structure of Digg submissions was built out for this very reason. If and when the mainstream public turns its attention to Digg, the audience that it has today might be able to find refuge in its own sections of the site--if it decides to stick around.
This acquisition would be a tremendous opportunity for Kevin Rose and company to cash in on some really hard work. They have done a great job building this company and carefully crafting the Digg community into what it is today. Being taken under the wing of a company like Google may be their big shot at really breaking into the mainstream.
Like I already said, the move would absolutely change the dynamic of the site. Some would like it and stay, some would hate it and leave, and many more would discover Digg for the first time. So, what do you think? Would Google destroy Digg or take it to the next level?