Yahoo’s Digg-a-like Buzz is opening up to the world tonight. Until now, while anyone could see stories that had been Buzzed and vote them up or down, only about 400 publishers could contribute new links to the service.
A Yahoo spokesperson confirmed that it was always Yahoo’s intention to open up Buzz, but that it kept the service restricted while it worked out bugs and refined the product. One might wonder what is so hard about building a site for submitting and rating products. There are tons out there. Yahoo made things a bit more difficult for itself by setting a unique goal for Buzz: it’s designed to feed stories to the Yahoo home page. And unlike pure community vote sites like Digg and Reddit, Buzz’s algorithms also take into account search engine popularity. (Yahoo’s editors still program the Yahoo.com front page manually; Buzz is a feeder system.)
Until now only a hundred or so invited publishers could post news to Buzz. This was a big plug – Yahoo pushes a few Yahoo Buzz stories to their home page every day, resulting in huge, server-melting traffic surges to the lucky third party sites. Starting tonight, the invitation requirement is gone, and anyone can submit their stories to Buzz. Buzz also can leverage other Yahoo communities. Delicious, Flickr, and Upcoming could get prominent Buzz links to feed items into the system. That won’t appear initially, but links the other way will: When you buzz something, you’ll also be able to share it on Delicious, or on Digg, StumbleUpon, or other services.
It’s hard to compare Buzz to Digg. Like AOL’s Propeller, they chose to add editorial discretion in determining headlines to reduce gaming. That also seems to make users less interested in participating, though. In Yahoo’s case the fact that they promote headline stories on the home page of Yahoo gives them a huge traffic boost, which skews results.
It’s tempting to discount Buzz as just another content voting site, but that misses the point. Publishers cannot afford to ignore Buzz, since popular stories on the service can get placement on the Yahoo page, and that could drive large amounts of traffic back. It’s a big carrot. Competition for Buzz votes is going to be strong.
Buzz starts rolling out at 7 p.m PDT Monday. It may take some time for the new features to hit all the company’s servers.