How Digg Is Trying to Get Dugg by Developers

Popular link-sharing and rating site Digg relies on the contributions of its user community to submit stories and choose the most popular submissions.

Digg is now reaching out to another community — developers — in an effort to expand its footprint and get more users as it battles for share amid proliferating rivals.

Part of its effort involves expanding the Digg API that enables developers to access Digg data. The API functionality expansion started last month and includes access to Digg’s search and related stories functions. The addition of those two endpoints enables developers to pull up more stories from the Digg site, building them into their own apps and sites.

Over the course of the next month, Digg is planning on expanding its efforts even further.

“Up until now, the main limitation with the API has been an inability to write applications that let you participate on Digg,” Chris Howard, director of product management at Digg, told “We’re planning to start testing writable endpoints, such as for Digging stories, in the next four to six weeks with a handful of partners. Once we’re confident that the experience and performance of these endpoints are production-ready, we’ll open up access to those endpoints to any developer who wants to use them.”

So far, developers seem to be greeting Digg’s expanded API functionality warmly.

“We’ve just launched the feature, so we are still collecting data, but we’ve seen an increase in developer activity and engagement,” Howard said, although he cautioned that it’s still early.

Howard did not provide any specific figures on the number of developers currently using the API, though he added that they’re an important factor in spreading Digg.

“Their efforts in developing applications off the Digg API help make Digg more useful for users with specific needs,” Howard said. “The Shovel iPhone application is a great example. Digg hasn’t created its own iPhone app and it’s great that the API can be used by a developer to meet the needs of iPhone users.”

Opening APIs to third-party developers has proved a winning strategy for other Web 2.0 plays like Twitter, for whom a significant chunk of its user base interacts through external clients and services.

But with growth have come unexpected problems. Twitter has suffered a frequent number of outages and has wrestled with issues of scalability since its public launch, while its third-party clients were threatened with being cut-off during the Twitpocalypse scare.

As for Digg, Howard said he’s confident that the site’s API and the underlying infrastructure of Digg’s platform can handle an increased load. For one thing, he said that Digg recently invested a lot of work in its search platform.

“[We are] not only increasing the quality of the results, but also the performance and scalability of our systems,” Howard said. “Consequently, we have considerable headroom in our search platform.”

Attracting developers

Getting developers to actually use the Digg API isn’t as easy as just making the API available. Education is also a key component.

“To help with this, we plan to develop a gallery of products, sites, and features developed off the Digg API so other developers can better understand how Digg data and functionality can be extended into new applications,” Howard said.

Open source software also plays a key role in Digg’s overall developer strategy. Howard noted that Digg uses open source technologies, open protocols and file formats broadly in building Digg and in its developer strategy. He added that Digg also contributes much of the code that it develops code back to the open source community.

Those efforts are important, since listening to what developers want from Digg will help shape what actually comes next, Howard said.

“In our opinion, the writable endpoints are a huge step to expanding usage of the Digg API,” he said. “Beyond that, it’s hard to tell but we’ll continue to listen to the feedback from developers to ensure that we can meet their needs as best we can.”

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