Digg forced to surrender by a user revolt

T-Shirt with the now famous HD-DVD code

There is a well known and pretty cool site called Digg. This is how it works:

  • People submit links to articles or sites that they think are cool.
  • Then other Digg users either vote for the link (they Digg it) or against the link.
  • Those links with more votes rise to the top of the list and are viewed by more and more people.

Digg can generate enormous traffic and when smaller sites get ‘Dugg’ their servers often go down due to all the traffic.

Recently someone posted a link to a code which could be used to unlock new HD-DVD encryption schemes. The HD-DVD companies were rather chipped off about it and threatened Digg with legal action if the link was not removed. So the Digg management team got worried and started removing all links to the unlock code.

What happened then was cool, scary and a significant first: people noticed their Digg entries being deleted and fought back! Soon Digg users were going NUTS and posting hundreds and hundreds of links to the unlock code. Thousands of people became involved and links were posted faster than they could be removed. Eventually Digg realised that their site had been taken over by the user community – they had a choice:

  1. Basically shut Digg down and really anger the users
  2. Change their mind and allow the links

So they surrendered. The co-founder posted the code himself and said:

“After seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.
If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.”

They made a brave and perhaps foolish choice. It’s a win in the war building up against censorship – and a significant point in the history of the web. The code is probably going to become an icon of the anti-censorship movement (see the T-Shirt above).

Also see a BBC news story about the whole thing.

UPDATE:
There are now more than 1.2million sites referencing the code! You can check the current Google count by going to this link. The AACS reckons they are going to sue each of those sites! Idiots…

  • Nicci

    That is really kewl!! I love it when we are aware of pivotal moments. Glad the site stuck by the desires of those that made it so big – it would’ve suffered anyway if those people turned against it and atleast this way it keeps its street cred

  • Alistair

    The only thing is that this may lead to the demise of Digg. They will probably lose in court.

    This is an example of when democratisation can cause a loss for everyone. But this was an important step in the ongoing copyright revolution going on right now. Very interesting.