Image representing Digg as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Digg has done a lot of interesting things over the years, but recently they did something that confuses me. First, they banned Zaibatsu, possibly the third most active user of Digg. A few days later they announced new funding for what they call international expansion. About one week after that announcement, they banned many of their most active users with minimal information on why. According to the user named Cosmicdebris, this is part of the explanation:

your Digg.com account has been permanently banned due to egregious violations of the Digg.com TOU related to script usage.

I find this flurry of activity a little too coincidental. If these users were using scripts to enable them to Digg better, then they have been using them for a long time. David Chen has a very good overview of what Digg has been doing. More importantly, he highlights what the problem might be:

At one point, Digg’s top 100 users were responsible for over 50% of Digg’s front page stories. This was Digg’s fundamental problem, although it didn’t have to be: It was an attribute shared by many other Web 2.0 companies. Only a small fraction of the total number of users contributed substantially to the site. According to recent Quantcast statistics, 1% of the Digg’s users are contributing 32% of the site’s visits.

So, if you eliminate many of the users that are part of this 1%, different people will be able to get stories to the front page. The question is why, and why now?

Localized Digg?

If Digg is saying that they received funding for international expansion, then maybe they are looking at having various localized Diggs. By localized, I am not only talking about Digg in your language, I am talking about having DiggIndia and DiggRussia. These new “sub-diggs” could provide information from local sites in the appropriate language.

This type of specialization allows them to expand without creating new functionality. This also allows more people to get involved. If you have country specific Diggs, then you can have users with stories on a localized front page that could never have a story reach the front page in the current situation. This is a very good idea if it is what they have planned because it opens up a large segment of traffic they were missing before.

Cleaning House?

The only problem I have with the events of the past month is the obvious house cleaning. As I said above, they banned many of their most active users for using scripts. Again, if script usage was the issue, they could have done this a long time ago. It is their site, so they can do whatever they want, but it is dishonest to say script usage was the problem. So, why now? Obviously, they have something big planned. Clearing out the users means they want to open up the front page.

There are only a few reasons to do this. One is that they are expecting a large number of new users and want to make the site more inviting. The only real explanation for expecting a large number of new users is Facebook integration. Opening up to Facebook gives them millions of potential new users. The other possible reason is a purchase. Could some company finally be willing to buy Digg? Removing the top users could make the site more attractive to a buyer, but the bad PR they receive may be a little upsetting to a potential suitor as well. I can not imagine who would buy them right now and Google has been one of the few companies mentioned recently. Is there anyone else that could be interested?

So, the question remains, why ban users now and why not be honest about it? Based on the timing of activities the past month, I am guessing we will find out the answer this week.

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