What TiVo & Digg have in common?

In the early days when personal video recording was introduced by TiVo, many were enthralled by its seemingly elegant solution. The company charged quite a premium for its devices, and yet fostered a passionate community, dubbed Tivo-ted. In the years that followed, TiVo inspired a lot of, how should I put it politely, Xeroxes. Some are not even around, but the technology called PVR is now common place. Set-top box makers, open source downloads and OS makers have turned TiVo-type PVR into a commodity.

Does a similar fate await San Francisco-based Digg, the start-up behind the social news site of the same name?

Digg will always be known as the web service that brought vox populi to the assembly of the news front page. Now its voting system has found its way into new offerings from Netscape, Yahoo, Dell (WTF) and now Microsoft’s MSN Reporter offering. (A good comparison of the three new offerings is here.) This may not be the last Digg-like experiment.

Is this bad news for Digg?

On the surface it seems yes. But there was a reason I brought up the TiVo example. Comcast has a PVR service built into is set-top box, except it is a bear to deal with. TiVo’s UI is what makes it special and different.

Same goes for Digg, which will have to continue to innovate to stay ahead of those it inspires. Like TiVo, Digg has a very passionate community. TiVo’s community of users has kept the company going through the lean years, and now the tide seems to be turning… slowly.

A lot of people say Digg took away the sizzle from Slashdot, the first geek community of its kind. Not true, because Slashdot is still thriving, thanks to those who love that site. Similarly, community is Digg’s biggest strength, and that is what is going to separate it from the pretenders.
Kevin Rose will have to work his tail off to ensure that they remain part of the Digg Nation. The only thing not going in favor of Digg: like TiVo, Digg’s time for fetching a ridiculous premium from a likely buyer might be in the past.