USATODAY relaunched its website yesterday with a parade of new features that will add a significant social layer to the site that wasn’t there before. The website is no longer a simple hose spouting news at readers. It has become a full on social network, integrating user generated content in intelligent and interesting ways.

The list is sort of ho-hum at first – bigger pictures, better tabs, etc. But then there are a whole bevy of social feature as well. A few of the features are below. A full list is here. They’ve also integrated various Ajax components to the site – nothing over the top, but enough to make the interface a lot more pleasant to navigate.

New Features:

  • User Comments: Every article now has user comments.
  • Most Popular: Read articles based on popularity rather than in the order assigned by USATODAY editors. Articles are ranked by Most Read, Most Commented, Most Recommended (see below) and Most Emailed.
  • Digg-Like Article Voting: Click “recommend” on an article and the vote tally increases by 1. Highly recommended articles appear under the “Most Popular” tab.
  • Profile Pages: Registered users have their own page that aggregates their comments, recommended articles and other content.

Unlike some of the tepid experiments tried by other major publications, these show an intelligent commitment to building community at the site. Steve Rubel says they haven’t gone far enough, and suggest additional features. I don’t disagree, but this is a big commitment already by one of the largest mainstream media publications in the world. Let’s hope the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and others follow soon.

Update: Allen Stern has a good video overview of the new features.