Digg may have been a Web 2.0 pioneer, but out of all the mature startups loosely grouped into the ‘social media’ category, it’s one of the companies some might argue is well past its prime. While other upstarts born around mid-decade, such as Facebook and Twitter, continue to rise, Digg seems to be treading water.

That, of course, is not to say that Digg isn’t very popular. It is. And that’s not to say that it can’t do wonderful things for publishers who hit the front page. It can.

But for both consumers and publishers alike, the Facebook and Twitters of the world have largely become more important when it comes to sharing and discovering interesting content on the web.

With Version Four, Digg hopes to start the process of regaining some of its lost luster. It officially launched yesterday, and as founder and CEO Kevin Rose notes, it’s a “major revision of our platform – front end to back end.” Digg’s focus, of course, hasn’t changed, but Version 4 looks to bring the site up to speed with the evolution of social media.

Personalization and social networking are at the heart of the new Digg. This new version of the site encourages users to follow friends and other interesting people in an almost Twitter-like fashion.

The stories shared by these individuals are then used to populate a customized Digg homepage, one that ostensibly will be more relevant. Additionally, social connections are highlighted throughout the site. As Rose explains, “You’ll notice activity from the profiles you’re following highlighted in
stories, on comment pages, and even on their profile page as you navigate the

On the surface, most of this new functionality seems like a no brainer, and in fact, one might even argue that it’s long overdue. But at the same time, some say Digg is now trying a little bit too hard to be like Facebook and Twitter. As GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram notes:

While [the changes] may make the new site more familiar, it also runs the risk of
duplicating content users are already seeing elsewhere. Most of the links that
appear in the “My News” view when I login, for example, are links I’ve already
seen in my Twitter stream, since I follow the same people and accounts there.

From this perspective, it would appear that Digg has a Catch-22 on its hands. If it doesn’t become more ‘social‘, it runs the risk of becoming less and less relevant as more and more content is shared through sites with more social connectivity (read: Facebook and Twitter). On the other hand, if by becoming more social, Digg doesn’t offer anything those sites don’t, it will also continue to lose relevance.

Clearly, there are no easy fixes, and whether this revamp reignites Digg’s internal fire or flames out will largely depend on the site’s loyal but vocal and often hard-to-please hardcore users.

If they come to love the new Digg, it just might mean that there’s hope yet for the company. But if it loses them, it will have a really big hole to ‘digg‘ itself out of.

Photo credit: denharsh via Flickr.