Whitesoap: Like Digg, Only Fresher

As we ride the waves of Web 2.0, more and more websites are starting to pop up that are much more user-oriented, feeding off of user-provided content. By far the most popular social bookmarking site out there is Digg, but with great success, comes great imitation. One guy giving the Digg-clone enterprise a try is “Smash“, a 19-year-old web designer from Boston. His most recent project, Whitesoap, takes certain elements of Digg and makes it a heck of a lot simpler. But is that a good thing?

Like Digg, But Not Really

In the words of Smash himself (better known to his friends as Ben Guild), Whitesoap is “a constantly-updated directory of interesting blogs, links, and news-stories. Readers can even suggest stories to help. Yay! ^_^”

Yes, that Pikachu-looking smiley at the end is part of the official website description.

whitesoap-title.jpg

The key difference between this daily webzine and Digg is that the bulk of the stories presented on the front page are not “voted up” in the same fashion as Digg. Guild employs a handful of “moderators” that go through the stories, and they hand-select the tidbits that they feel are worthy of being featured on the main page. The “undiscovered stories” can be “suggested” by users, but it seems the ultimate choice is by the moderators/editors. This also results in no original content, much like Digg.

Room to Grow or Overly Restrictive

Another big difference is that the news items are not sporadically pulled from just anywhere. You probably won’t find a hot post originating from my blog or John Chow dot Com on Whitesoap. Instead, “we get all of our news from feeds we like, then our moderators choose stories from the pool or stories suggested by visitors.” The “feeds we like” include popular places like Jalopnik, FlickrBlog, Yahoo! News, Consumerist, and Nintendo Wii Fanboy. There’s definitely a good variety here, but without any sort of organization based on topic, it can be a little difficult finding the stories that best appeal to you. It’s just one long mish-mash of miscellaneous news.

This could be because the site is so new and the stories (and visitors) are not numerous enough yet to require any sort of real organization, but I sincerely hope that if Whitesoap expands beyond these early stages, that one of the first additions be some sort of categorization. If I’m interested in video game news, for example, I would then be able to find it directly, instead of having to sift through stuff about a new Hummer and the death of a rare leopard.

This White Soap is Really Dark

With a name like Whitesoap, you would expect a website to be all sparkly and clean. The layout is very straightforward with a simple Adsense banner at the top and an Adsense skyscraper running along the sidebar (note to Ben: to improve CTR, swap the Google ad title text to the same color as the rest of your links), but it is interesting that “Smash” chose such a dark background.

whitesoap-sample1.JPG

The tagline for Whitesoap is “stay fresh”, but my first reaction to the murky grey website was a sense of being dirty and grungy. Maybe he should just switch it to a more standard white background to keep with the “fresh and clean” feeling.

One feature that I did enjoy, although it wasn’t implemented quite as cleanly (no pun intended) as it could have been, is the ability to submit any of the featured stories to a wide range of other social bookmarking services, like Furl, StumbleUpon, and even Facebook. To get at these icons, you need to click on the “info / bookmark” bar underneath the appropriate story.

Not Enough to Keep Me Coming Back

Whitesoap is still in its relative infancy, so I can appreciate some of its growing pains. I can also understand that it was designed to be as simple as possible, but this could be a part of its downfall. I could just as easily log into my own Google personalized homepage and catch up on the RSS feeds that I like to read, rather than the ones that Whitesoap’s moderators prefer.

Which news items are the most interesting is largely a matter of personal preference, but with no real “rating” system for the stories on Whitesoap, it’s hard to see what’s hot and what’s not. There’s definite potential here, but Whitesoap has got to offer me more before it becomes a part of my daily routine.


39 thoughts on “Whitesoap: Like Digg, Only Fresher”

  1. lol I love it you can brand anything nowadays.

    Whitesoap, lol. Can’t get over it.

    Checking it out now.

    Thanks

    1. Kumiko says:

      I just came up with a great new name for a web2.0 site – GreenToothbrush! Think it’ll work?

      1. Marc says:

        Depends how green it is… 😛

        1. Kumiko says:

          That’s the hook! It’ll be a blue site! The irony will drive bucketloads of traffic! 😀

          1. Marc says:

            You win! Kumiko’s got it all figured out and will be a Web 2.0 millionaire in no time 🙂

  2. Simonne says:

    It surely looks promising, but without categories, it’s quite time consuming, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time there.

    1. Court says:

      How in the world do they think it’s going to work without categories? Maybe they’ll add some in later. 💡

  3. Seems exactly like digg…… I didn’t mind the dark layout though.

    1. Dave says:

      I can’t stand websites that are really dark, it almost never works.

      1. I enjoy light backgrounds with blue.

        1. Michael Kwan says:

          Like John Chow dot Com? 😆

  4. Looks like Smash has a lot more to consider than just a contradictory background color. The site could get big, but it definitely has plenty of room left for improvement.

  5. moneymaker says:

    what a name. its sounds nice though. whitesoap. who would forget that!

    1. Court says:

      I guess it is a pretty good name for branding! I’ll always remember it.

  6. Miriguy says:

    He should have named it darkmist or something. lol

  7. i like digg better ^_^

    1. Dave says:

      Me too, Digg has the bizzare and interesting stories to provide a short diversion during the work day!

  8. Erik Karey says:

    Just checked it out. Not too bad, but needs some work. I’ve bookmarked it either way, should be interesting to track it’s progress.

  9. Dave says:

    It’s really hard to launch a digg like site and make it to the big time. They (digg) already has such a huge lead…

  10. thesilly1 says:

    Yeah, but woudldn’t it be easier to be ‘scrubed’ (what i’m calling Digged) by this site then Digg? So this would be a lot easier to start with them. Im a little intimidated by digg and I don’t digg it yet. (way too many pun’s in one comment)

  11. blogdinero says:

    looks digg, not like digg

  12. Eric says:

    The site looks professional, and all of the posts listed on the front page seem at the very least interesting. For a 19 year old, I’d say smash is doing quite well for himself, another one of his projects that I came across is Mobile17.com. Look for exciting things from this guy!

    Whitesoap could definitely use some work though, right now it strikes me as being kind of disorganized, and generally all over the place. He needs to find some way to rank the pages better than digg does, or it’ll be a dud for sure.

    Because Money Makes the World Go ‘Round

  13. 19 years old — is it just me or are these online whizzes getting younger by the second? I guess Whitesoap started off OK, but if in the end, someway somehow, it doesn’t work Smash can certainly learn from it and come up with something more innovative and substantial.

    1. Michael Kwan says:

      That was my first thought too: these guys are sooo young. Whitesoap has potential, but it needs to — pardon the pun — clean up.

  14. Amanda says:

    He’s actually poorly designed compared to people even younger than him in design stages. Programming its a great but he has a long way to go design wise.

  15. Court says:

    I like Digg about 1000 times better. He should hire a graphic designer.

  16. Robert A. says:

    http://sourp.com/

    Basically “whitesoap” except better in every aspect.

  17. moneymaker says:

    yeah digg is 1000 times better but it got potential to be big!

    1. specially because Digg is starting to have spam 🙁

  18. Sourp seems very weak to me. Maybe that’s because I’m not a gamer. I like Digg and Fark both…but both have their downsides. Primarily elitist cynics on Digg, and the mods on Fark can be sloppy…with all the double-posts and re-treads on there, I’m sure I’m missing a lot of other decent stuff.

    I sorta liked the layout of http://popurls.com, but I’ve switched to Pageflakes, where I can now build-my-own feeds. It’s decent. I guess I just wish I had a bigger monitor so I could use an even higher resolution.

    And I was SO sure 1440×900 on two monitors would be enough! LOL…

  19. Digg, Fark, and Whitesoap are all far from perfect, but somehow they do serve their purpose. It’s just a matter of preference, I guess; the more of them there are, the more choices we all have.

  20. Amanda says:

    You are right it does have the potential to be big but it also has the potential to flop if he doesn’t work on the layout.

  21. For Whitesoap’s sake, I suggest they have a whole lot of optimism to keep on truckin’. 🙂

  22. yeah change to white! srsly

  23. Could be good to find some good stories, as the do not publish everything that users posts.

  24. Change to white. Definitely an interesting idea and site. Very Web 2.0ish, and clean, yet sort of messy. Great Review man!

    -Sam from MarketMatador.com

  25. Not another one. I am not even going to look to see if they have rounded corners and a fade-reflection logo…

    Meanwhile, here’s why it’s a good idea for bloggers to avoid social bookmarking sites like Digg, in the first place.

    db

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