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July 22, 2009

Digging a grave in a short-URL wor.ld

Posted: 11:08 AM ET

The Web is full of middlemen and aggregators. Google is the biggest. Digg once was the coolest. And now Twitter and URL-shortening services create (mostly) transparent bridges between Web content, like news stories, and online readers.

People both love and hate these go-betweens. On one hand, sites like Digg, Facebook and Twitter give readers access to all kinds of news and social content they might not otherwise see. But small changes can make a benevolent middleman seem downright meddlesome.

And that's what happened to Digg this week.

The Web 2.0 rock-star site - which lets a community prioritize news stories by voting them up or down - is drawing fire from tech blogs for sticking itself between its links and the news stories it promotes. A confusing change to the site's service caused some shortened story links to redirect to Digg's pages, rather than to the original pages on blogs and news sites.

Don't get bogged down in the details of the change. Part of the problem is that the change is confusing to everyone. TechCrunch writer Jason Kincaid calls the move "career suicide" for a Digg toolbar and "incredibly irritating" to users.

On its blog, Digg says it backed off of the change somewhat, making it only apply to future news stories, not retroactively to all Digg-shortened links.

But part of Digg's problem is that the site is overly responsive to criticism in a way that obscures its vision of the future, writes Josh Lowensohn of CNET, a content partner.

Behind the Digg story is another fear: that other go-betweens, particularly URL shorteners, will start similarly bothersome practices in order to direct more traffic to their sites. [See a new chart of the top sites for sharing URLs: Facebook leads with nearly a quarter of the market.]

Right now, sites like and take Web links and shorten them so they'll fit in Twitter posts or e-mails without taking up too much space. Click on one (this for example: and you go straight to the original site. These services may outcompete Digg's linking service because of their simplicity and reliability, writes Michael Arrington of TechCrunch.

But there also could be a future in which all links must pass through a middleman site, thus slowing down search for online news and entertainment down.

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Kevin   July 22nd, 2009 7:03 pm ET

Sounds to me like Digg is attempting to steal intellectual property by passing off other news organizations' information as it's own, thereby reducing that group's ad revenue and increasing their own ... shame on them.

Richard   July 22nd, 2009 9:44 pm ET

Kevin, Digg screwed up, but there is clearly NO attempt to pass off anyone else's information as their own. Have you ever SEEN Digg?

Kevin   July 23rd, 2009 10:34 am ET

Richard, did you READ the article?

"A confusing change to the site’s service caused some shortened story links to redirect to Digg’s pages, rather than to the original pages on blogs and news sites.... On its blog, Digg says it backed off of the change somewhat, making it only apply to future news stories, not retroactively to all Digg-shortened links."

So what you're saying is that, they change their system, it redirects everything back to them instead of the original content providers, then they say "oops it was only supposed to do that for all new content" ... that doesn't shady at all to me .... While there may have been mistakes in the implementation, the intent is clear: to drive more traffic to their site regardless of who's intellectual property is generating that traffic.

wordmaverick   July 24th, 2009 4:31 pm ET

URL shorteners like and are at their heart a company – and companies are endeavors created to make profits. If you are never engaged with the company then how can they turn a profit? (Other than some kind of subscription service arrangement with sites like We shouldn't be surprised then if (when) URL shorteners try to wrestle their way into the user experience in an effort to capture revenue (albeit through subscription or even advertising). And for sites like Twitter who rely heavily on these services... let's just say they got 'em by the short hairs.

david   July 26th, 2009 4:41 pm ET

If you kids dont stop it im going to turn this car around and were not going on vacation!!

Kylie Sanchez   May 25th, 2010 3:19 pm ET

Most countries in the third world never respects intellectual property rights. piracy is so rampant in asian countries.~`*

Hayden Robertson   July 23rd, 2010 1:13 pm ET

intellectual property is not really respected in most countries in asia where piracy is so rampant.'-`

Jocelyn Peterson   September 9th, 2010 1:32 pm ET

there are so many intellectual property and copyright violations these days~,`

Reverse Osmosis :   October 24th, 2010 7:36 am ET

intellectual property is always a concern these days because of the very fast update in technology`"*

Peltier Cooler   December 16th, 2010 2:40 am ET

in China, they do not respect intellectual property at all. too many software and movie pirates out there `~-

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