Friday, May 4, 2007

The Day the Ax Fell

May 1st was marked by various marches, violence around the world. But for us geeks, the big event that occurred on may 1st was the user revolt on the popular social news site Digg. The event all started when Digg received a take down notice from the guys at AAC requesting the removal of all stories and links pertaining to the leaked HD DVD encryption key. Digg complied with this order deleting stories containing the code, which resulted in users reposting these stories, which caused Digg to suspend the user accounts of those responsible. This quickly lead to a revolt as users went up in arms against the Digg Administrators, posting story after story with the HD DVD encryption key, and Digging those stories up until the front page was filled with stories displaying the HD DVD encryption key.

Some users demanded an apologies, others believed that Digg had somehow sold out as Diggnation had carried advertising for HD DVD. But one thing was very clear. Users were not happy with Digg decision to take down stories on their site.

So in what became a surprising decision, Digg's co-founder Kevin Rose posted the HD DVD encryption key to his blog and stated:

But now, 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

This reversal was a bit unsettling for me at first, since I didn't want to see Digg placed in a situation where Digg could be shutdown by the AAC through legal action. And call it the conservative in me, I didn't like seeing Kevin (Rose) back down on his decision to allow posting of a story that clearly violated the users terms of service. But, now that sometime has past, it have become apparent that maybe this was the right decision for Digg. For one, it has allowed the readership to almost double in the wake of the revolt as the story grabbed headlines in various publications such as, the NY Times, Forbes, C-Net, BBC news, and many others. Also, it re-enforced that Digg was a Democratic system were the users decide what stories get posted and what makes the front page. It was probably that fact alone that lead to Digg decide to leave the postings up, as it became quickly apparent that without the support of the users they wouldn't be able to prevent the encryption key from being reposted.

So, whether this is a sign of bravery on the part of Kevin, as Doctor Tiki proposed, or simply a move to appease the users. We are heading for a showdown between Digg and the legal might of the AAC group. This battle could mean the end for Digg as a site and as a company or it could be the first nail in the coffin for AAC protection on HD DVD disks. Whatever the case the Ax will comedown on one of these two competitors. I'm personally hoping that Digg will come out on top in this round of legal wrangling, but only time will tell who will.

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