UPDATED 06:10 EDT / APRIL 16 2009

Digg Caves on DiggBar Complaints

image Digg made a posting to their company blog about recent changes to the somewhat controversial DiggBar. Since it’s somewhat related to our topic of the day, URL shorteners, I thought I’d take a minute to translate through the corporate speak. Given the ferocity of the criticism over the last few days, you can almost see the first few paragraphs being spoken through gritted teeth:

Since we launched the DiggBar, we’ve received valuable feedback from the Digg community, publishers, SEO industry experts and Google.

“Since we launched the DiggBar, a loud incessant whine has been been coming from the the blogosphere.”

We believe that the DiggBar provides a more seamless way to discover and share content on Digg.  Since the launch a little more than a week ago, roughly 45% of all Digging activity is now happening on the Diggbar and over 25% of all DiggBar users are discovering new content they otherwise wouldn’t have by viewing related stories and content from the same source. We’ve also seen a 10% increase in users sharing short-URLs across Twitter, Facebook, email and other places.

“Despite the squeaky wheels, pretty much everyone who uses us and doesn’t blog about it seems to be finding more stories they like.  Which is, y’know, the point of our site.”

They then go on to detail the changes to the DiggBar: The short URL service and the Digg site itself will only display the DiggBar and to users that are logged in. Additionally, the DiggBar adhere to a number of behaviors that will continue to pass the “Google Juice” to the originating site.

Many users find the bar annoying, particularly those that regularly surf the web through the use of the Facebook toolbar, and a good number of folks have been very vocal about their opposition. Much like the arguments about URL shorteners being “evil,” calling the DiggBar evil is just about as ludicrous, if not more so.

Once Again, We Defend a Technology Against Geek Fundamentalists
The strongest argument against the DiggBar is that it isn’t exactly the picture of perfect aesthetics, particularly in a world where screen real-estate is at a premium. As Stan Schroeder noted the other day, the “DiggBar is Good For You, Really Good For Digg.” It was specially formulated not to hurt SEO, and “used the meta noindex for DiggBar pages and include rel=”canonical” to make sure search engines know which URL is the original version” from the very beginning.

The accusations are legion and serious, though. Kevin Eklund over at ToMuse summed up the arguments thusly:

* Digg Steals Traffic Digg doubles its traffic by showing your content in its frame and redirecting the shortened urls back to Digg instead of to your site.

* Steals links by creating shortened urls that are redirect to Digg first and foremost.

* Steals content your content is essentially being hosted by Digg through it’s framing structure.

* Steals potential revenue by either blocking your content/ads or by stealing ad impressions/clicks.

* Enables others to justify framing as well. Then we are right back to where we started in the late 1990’s when websites were nothing more than frames within frames and lawsuits are handed dished out like candy.

To address each of these points directly, and regarding stolen revenue and traffic, Mike Arrington explained it succinctly: “For most purposes those sites won’t care. The page is still rendered and includes the advertising. The way most internal analytics software works means that page views will still be counted.”

Stealing links was never an issue, given the metadata always pointed the original source. As far as a spider is concerned, the link points to the actual source, not Digg.  This is only improved upon with the opt-in nature of the new 301 Redirects for non-Digg users.


Enabling others to justify framing is a question of personal ethics and aesthetics, and opinions will vary from person to person.

Is Content Curation Stealing?
As to stealing content, though, it’s a more dicey and philosophical question.  Is not content curation, be it by algorithm or human hand, just another form of editing? Granted, the paradigm on the Web is a bit different from say the print model of doing business, but there are some striking similarities between what Digg is doing here and what your local hometown paper does.

image When it comes to local content, most regional papers do the work in house.  A large portion of the paper is generally syndicated content, though.  The content is acquired through organizational licenses to newswires like UPI, AP and Reuters.  The wire reporters are paid through those feeds, ostensibly.

Here on the web, the curator pays the content creators it syndicates with pageviews and attention. The DiggBar model is actually more equitable, in that way, than a quoted paragraph or excerpt with a link.

Didn’t AllThingsD just become the center of a ruckus recently when attention was brought to their Voices section?  Granted, there’s nothing I see wrong with their method of content curation, but it’s ironic that the voices they were syndicating were railing against another form of content curation that’s far more beneficial to the indie producer of content than the Voices method (which they also seemed to hate).

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