Google planning to upgrade Apps

According to a report at a search blog from a conference in Ann Arbor, Google — not usually known as a company that tends to blab about what it has planned for the future — has been doing just that about Google Apps and some of the new features it expects to release next year. Among other things, Gmail and Google Calendar and other apps are apparently going to get offline support through Google Gears, which is something that many (including yours truly) have been waiting for.

One other piece of good news: Google’s lame Page Creator service — which I find it hard to believe anyone actually uses, apart from maybe kids in a sheltered workshop for the developmentally delayed — is reportedly going to get an upgrade, and will become part of a tool/service that is powered by JotSpot, the wiki company, and will let businesses create project sites where employees can collaborate on research.

A move by Google into Enterprise 2.0? Makes sense to me. And once offline support is available for Google Docs and its other apps, it will be able to make a serious push into that market.

Is Digg getting better, or worse?

If you like things like podcasts, video and a widescreen look to a website, then Digg has just launched a site redesign that will be a nice ChristmaHanuKwanakah present for you, as described by both Om Malik (at NewTeeVee) and Mike Arrington at TechCrunch. But will all of these new additions help to broaden Digg’s appeal, or will they just further dilute that appeal?

If you’ve been following the blogosphere, there has been a fair bit of controversy about Digg — not about it broadening its reach into general news and other areas (in fact, there’s been surprisingly little comment about that) but about it being rigged, about submitters taking money under the table (which I wrote about here), and so on. Jason Clarke has argued that Digg is useless.

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It’s obvious that some of this is getting to other people too. Over at TechCrunch, one person says they hardly go to Digg any more because the comments are cluttered with morons, and that “As Digg gains more and more momentum to be mainstream we will see that it no longer becomes a barometer of cool but just another established website beaten by fragmented niche sites.”

There are definitely both risks and rewards to the way Digg is going. On the one hand, video is becoming more popular — and Digg’s crowd-voting system can no doubt bring its value (positive and negative) to that as well. But at the same time, adding podcasts and video streams and other features takes away from the streamlined focus on Web links that made Digg so popular (StumbleUpon, which got its start in Calgary, has also launched a video service).

As Digg-style voting tools get worked into other sites, it’s also possible that people might desert Digg for other, more focused sites in particular areas (the way Digg used to be for technology). Meanwhile, Pete Cashmore over at Mashable says the changes are “ridiculously overhyped as usual.” And Neil Patel at Search Engine Land notes that Digg has also made some changes that will affect submitters in subtle ways.