Digg Responds, Says DiggBar Not Evil


In a post on their blog this morning, Digg answered many of the concerns and accusations that have been filed over its new DiggBar service (previous coverage) in an attempt to quell some of the backlash.

In their response, Digg claims that they took several steps to ensure that the DiggBar was fair to publishers, including the following:

  • JavaScript-Based Linking: The links on Digg’s page are actually links to the original source, but they are modified using JavaScript for visitors that have that option selected. Search engines can’t see JavaScript and, theoretically, should only be directed to the original content. Registered users can turn this off by visiting their Settings and editing their Viewing Preferences.
  • Canonical Links and Meta Tags: In an update earlier this week, the DiggBar now identifies the source URL as canonical, indicating that it is the original source of the content, not the DiggBar URL. Furthermore, the new Digg URL pages now also include a meta “noindex” tag to ensure that the Digg page is not indexed in the major search engines.
  • Working with Web Analytics Companies: Digg also said they have worked with many different Web analytics firms, including Comscore, Nielsen, Quantcast and Compete to ensure that the source URL will be credited for the traffic. They have confirmed, on all of those sites, that it should work as planned.

The reaction to this has been very postive, include articles both on Mashable and on TechCrunch that are supportive of the changes, the latter even saying, “So crisis averted… Whew, no [sic] I can go back to using the Diggbar.”

However, the comments on both posts have been less enthusiastic. Both sites have commenters that are still critical of the change and are not satiated by the fixes.

Clearly this controversy is going to be continuing for quite some time.

My Thoughts

There isn’t much doubt that this is a step in the right direction. Though I’m going to withhold judgment until I see evidence that these steps are actively helping Webmasters, especially those who had already seen some of their links in Google get replaced by Digg’s, the “noindex” alone shows a willingness to at least make some concessions to publishers.

Though, theoretically, the Digg URLs should not be making it into any search index anywhere, it would still clearly be better for publishers if those URLs didn’t exist at all or forwarded the traffic on directly.

Furthermore, this doesn’t do anything to address the legal concerns listed in the previous post on the topic. The copyright, trademark and tortuous interference issues remain as do all of the non-SEO related ethical issues, including advertising and visitor interference.

Though I’m going to sleep better tonight knowing that the DiggBar has at least done what it can to resolve the SEO issues, which were at least the most immediate of the concerns, there are still many other issues that need to be addressed.

However, I think the best comment on the subject came from Kevin at ToMuse, who reminded me that the reason framing was abandoned in the late nineties, when it first became popular, was because it caused problems with visitors and the Web at large. As more sites used frames, frames began to open up within other frames, creating a mess.

Since only a few sites use frames now, the problem isn’t there yet. But with Digg and Facebook both using the technique, it is only a matter of time before more sites take it up. As this frame monster I created with help from friends on Twitter shows, it’s already possible with a little effort (special thanks to @jfredson).

Though the immediate problems with the DiggBar seem to have been dealt with, the longer term ones remain. Let’s hope that the problem is averted as I don’t think anyone who developed sites in the mid to late nineties wants to go through the “frame wars” all over again.

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