Digg Users Are Revolting — But Literally This Time

After a problem-plagued relaunch of the link-sharing site last week, some Digg users seem to have taken matters into their own hands, and have been voting up — or “digging” — links from competitor Reddit.com as a way of showing their displeasure with the new version of the site. By noon on Monday, nine out of the top 10 links for the previous 24 hours came from Reddit (the only one that didn’t was a sponsored link), and most of them had been voted up over 1,000 times. The revolt even spawned a hashtag on Twitter: #diggrevolt.

Some users have complained that the service has been dominated by content from mainstream publishers, which they say has been obscuring the unique or undiscovered links that Digg fans used to enjoy. According to one estimate, more than half of the site’s top stories have come from just seven sources. Founder and CEO Kevin Rose, who said in a recent blog post that Digg plans to change some of the most heavily-criticized features, said in a message posted to Twitter that the site is working on what he called the “source diversity” part of the site’s ranking algorithm. According to some reports, manual submission of stories to the new version of Digg were also briefly suspended during the day.

In addition to digging Reddit posts, Digg users have also been registering their concerns about the new version of the site by voting up posts that call on founder and CEO Kevin Rose to “do the right thing,” etc. Users of the site have employed similar tactics in the past to express their disapproval, including a campaign in 2007 to protest Digg’s removal of links to a DVD-cracking code. In that case, Rose posted a response saying he’d heard the criticisms and Digg had decided to leave future links to the code up, despite the risk of legal action.

The new Digg does have some prominent supporters, however: Ryan Block, co-founder of the technology-buying community gdgt — which he started with former Engadget founder Peter Rojas — defended the redesign on Twitter, after saying that it was “lame and petty how a subset of bitchy Digg users are hijacking the site.” Block called the relaunch the “most inspired product launch Digg has ever had,” and said that the redesign “realigns interests and does a lot to remove the incentives to game the system.” He also said that Digg had to change because “the model that made Digg popular no longer works… social news has evolved, and so Digg had to evolve with it.” Rose responded by saying: “Thanks for the support, we’re pushing new code like mad – trying to stabilize/add back features/fix bugs.”

That users have been making their case against Digg by voting up Reddit links is fitting, since there’s long been a rivalry between the two sites (although in a recent video interview with Kara Swisher at All Things Digital, the Digg founder denied that Reddit was really a competitor). Reddit fans often argue that their site gets links first, in some cases days before they show up at Digg, and in a controversial post about Digg earlier this year, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian warned Rose that he (Rose) appeared to be making changes that were designed to meet the needs of its venture capitalist backers rather than users.

Reddit has had its own share of difficulties recently: The site, which was bought by Conde Nast, recently got some heat from its own users after it asked for financial donations and then launched a subscription version. In the latest twist, the site got into a dispute with Conde Nast over marijuana-related ads, which sparked what appeared to be a semi-serious acquisition offer for the link-sharing site from Ben Huh, founder and CEO of the I Can Has Cheezburger empire of humor websites. Ohanian responded to the takeover offer on the weekend with a post on his blog featuring a series of LOLcat photos.

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Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user pixietart

gdgt is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.