I recently came upon a post from Amplify asking for readers takes on what was the biggest social media disappointment from the year 2010. I didn’t have to think twice about this one, as this past year was none-too-kind to my long-time favorite social media site and community. I am referring of course to the late, almost-great Mixx.com.
Mixx was easily the biggest disappointment of 2010 (and a strong case could be made for 2009 as well). The submission/voting-style social news, photo and video-sharing site that first made a name for itself by aggressively targeting banned Diggers and at one point appeared poised to challenge the social news leader for its spot in the limelight largely fizzled-out in 2010, which was likely a contributing factor in Mixx’s decision to jump ship.
You see, early this year (2011), Mixx was acquired by a company called UberMedia. The new owners immediately announced plans to take the site in a different direction — one that does not necessarily involve all of Mixx’s super-users and loyal ambassadors, and definitely does not involve any of Mixx’s millions of pages of content, much of which was original.
A site that had tens of millions of users, millions of pages of content and just as many inbound links from other sites sells to a buyer who doesn’t care a lick about any of that. That’s right, UberMedia essentially bought the domain name, the brand and nothing more. The company’s plans for the domain do not appear to involve making use of the goldmine of link-equity acquired by Mixx over the past four years or so, the company seems prepared to dump all existing users without concern for whether or not they return, and there is no plan to keep user-generated content online, according to a Mixx staffer.
Mixx Communities: The Beginning of the End
During the summer of ’09, they introduced a new “community” feature in which users could create their own topic-specific communities that each came with its own subdomain of the user’s choosing.
Where they went wrong was in allowing users to submit to both the main site and communities, as well as to multiple communities. The move led to a mass-infusion of content that was duplicated, then triplicated, and then duplicated once again. Most of the community content consisted of subs to the main site, which were then either manually added to one or more communities, and/or automatically added to whichever communities chose to auto-populate content based on the community “owner’s” choice of keywords and tags.
Mixx initially left all community, tag and user profile pages indexed and followed in the robots.txt. After a few short months, this move had gotten them into trouble with Google.
Before you knew it, (according to a high-ranking Mixx staffer) Chris McGill, the company’s founder and CEO (and former GM at Yahoo! News, Chief Strategist at USA Today) was off to California to meet with Eric Schmidt about (among other things) what Mixx could do to get back to its pre-community levels in terms of traffic from search.
Not long after McGill’s return from the West Coast (Mixx was based in D.C.), Mixx promptly applied the “nofollow” attribute to all outbound links, and noindexed all community submission-level pages, leaving only the main community indexes open to search robots. ALL links on community pages featured the “nofollow” attribute.
In my opinion, between the loss of search traffic and the loss of incentive for users whose links were suddenly valueless and who had seen no indication of a return to dofollow, the damage had been done, and it was only a matter of time until the inevitable occurred. The inevitable occurred in late-January when Mixx was acquired by Uber Media.
Eventually, Mixx did slowly regain its position within Google. However, it was too little, too late. The site and community was never the same after the Mixx Communities debacle. The amount of traffic to the site, both in terms of new visits from search as well as on-site activity by logged-in users never did reach the levels attained prior to the Google penalties. The site had grown rapidly for roughly two years, but the momentum that existed just prior to Google’s nuking of Mixx’s performance in search was never recaptured.
The Nail in the Coffin
A few high-profile bannings that led to defections coupled with an ever-increasing sense of clickishness (for lack of a better term) within the community thwarted whatever chances the site had of making a full recovery. It became increasingly difficult the final year-and-a-half for newcomers to gain any traction with their subs (or with the Mixx ruling elite – users, not admins). Those new users who did manage to find the site were given no reason to stay, and most eventually left for greener pastures.
I’ve been waiting for more than a year now to write this post. It was never a matter of questioning whether or not this day would come, but whether trying to guess when the ball would finally drop.
Let’s hold our collective breath that the social news communities who reap the benefits of Mixx’s demise (the ones who get all the Ex-Mixxers) won’t make the same mistakes, and won’t see a similar fate to the one-time up-and-comer who stared Digg straight in eye and then magically disappeared into thin-air.