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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Why I’m not blocking the DiggBar, yet

April 15, 2009

If you haven’t heard of the DiggBar, and the hoopla it has created over the last week or so, allow me to fill you in. The DiggBar is a new feature of Digg.com, a social news Web site, that puts a tool bar of sorts on top of any page on the Web. This bar gives you some general information about that page’s popularity on the Digg.com site, allows you to Digg the page if you’d like, favorite it, or jump to another random Digg.

For an example of what the DiggBar looks like, here is an example of a page here on First initial, last name that has been getting a few hundred views per day with the DiggBar.

But wait, there’s more. The DiggBar, as you can see from the example URL I gave, also acts as a way to shorten a URL. You can read some of my general thoughts about URL shorteners here. This makes it easy for people to share these DiggBar-wrapped URLs on sites like Twitter (I’m cdevroe, btw).

Why block the DiggBar?

Because the DiggBar is the devil!! No, not really. But there are some legitimate reasons to block, or boycott, the DiggBar in favor of the team at Digg changing the way it is implemented. You see, the same caveats that apply to other URL shortening services also apply to Digg. Such as link rot (or links expiring). On top of those reasons, though, is the fact that they are wrapping the Dugg URL with the DiggBar. Some may not like that. Worse, however, is that the location in the browser does not change as it would with traditional URL shortening services. This is bad practice for a number of reasons. First, although Digg would argue that they’ve “taken this into consideration”, is the way search engines index the URL. If the URL for these indexed pages all resulted in having Digg.com/* in them, Digg would be getting a lot of “Google juice” that really wasn’t meant for them. That credit should be going to the original URL but instead it’d be going to Digg. Digg says that they’ve addressed this problem but, as some have pointed out, they didn’t do this correctly.

The URL not changing also has an affect on the human interface. When people browse the Web they generally believe that the address in the location bar on their browser is the location that they are currently browsing on the Internet. If my browser says I’m browsing Amazon.com then I’m probably browsing Amazon.com. The DiggBar goes directly against this convention. Even though your browser reads digg.com/whatever it does not mean that you are on Digg.com. To make matters worse, if you’re going through your browser’s history – you know, to get back to that tutorial that you read earlier today about how to soften butter correctly – you will be presented with a Digg URL rather than the canonical URL (or, the established URL for a piece of content, the real one). This is just bad form. Other URL shortening services do not even show up in my browser’s history.

In other words, the current implementation of the DiggBar brings with it a whole new set of problems that adversely affects both the sites that Digg links to and the people that are browsing those sites.

Why I’m not blocking the DiggBar

With all of this hoopla about how bad the DiggBar’s implementation is you might think that I’d be one of the first people to block it. John Gruber, who is kicking and screaming about the DiggBar as much as anyone, has chronicled the goings-on with the DiggBar over the last week. Searching through his coverage, which is sort of hard since his search results are a bit odd, will reveal a wide array of ways to block the DiggBar fairly easily. But I think I’ll wait on blocking the DiggBar just yet, and here is why.

I’ve met Kevin (who founded Digg and is the lead guy behind many of their products), know some of the people at Digg (or did, not sure if they are still there), and am generally a fan of what Digg is trying to do as a site and with the DiggBar. John’s all out assault on Digg’s audience, in my opinion, isn’t really fair. I’m just as much against trolls on Digg as anyone but not everyone that uses Digg is a douche. I also do not believe that Digg’s intentions were all bad when they released the DiggBar. Could they have done a better job? Yes. Could they have leaked it out to more testers that are more sensitive to the adverse affects it may cause? Yes. But Digg has misstepped before and, as far as I’ve seen, done a fairly good job of listening to community feedback and adjusting. I hope they do the same thing with the DiggBar.

If they don’t, then I’ll block it.

Update: It looks like the first wave of changes to the DiggBar are planned and being released this week. Digg will allow members to opt out while non-members, or those not currently logged in, won’t see it at all. A fantastic first step in my opinion.