After two days of silence, Digg has gone on the record to officially acknowledge the change in how its shortened links are redirected, as well as clear up how links will be handled in the future.
The change, which took place on Sunday, had links which once lead directly to a story's source, redirecting to Digg's story pages instead. The new behavior appeared only on stories that had been submitted to the site, leading to confusion on where users would go when they clicked on a shortened Digg URL.
In a post on Digg's company blog, CEO Jay Adelson explained that the new way of handling shortened URLs would remain in place. As a concession to early adopters, Digg URLs created before Tuesday would continue to link directly to the source. But going forward, all new links will retain the newer behavior of redirecting to Digg story pages, unless the page had never been submitted as a story, or the viewer is registered and logged in to Digg.com.
Despite how the the DiggBar and integrated shortening service were introduced to users earlier this year, Adelson said Digg never wanted to end up as a URL service provider.
"Our strategy with Digg short URLs is to facilitate sharing of Digg content, not to be a conventional redirection service," Adelson said. Digg founder Kevin Rose had said something along the same lines in a Sunday night appearance on Leo Laporte's This Week in Tech.
So far, the change has resulted in a lot of user distrust. Many people who used the service to shorten URLs have vowed never to use it again, while others simply chided the company for changing the behavior of links without first alerting users. Digg has caved to unhappy users in the past, but this change has more to do with Digg's business model than previous feature changes.
The DiggBar remains one of the company's most controversial features. While fervent users continue to use the service, it was initially a big turnoff for many publishers and casual users. Along with the structure of user comments, the DiggBar has endured a lot of changes since its inception, having had much of its functionality made optional after users and critics alike bashed its operating methods.
Still, the change in URL behavior serves several important purposes in moving Digg forward as a business. One is to get more page views and boost unique user counts from people who must first visit Digg's story pages before visiting the source story. Another is to grow user adoption of the DiggBar, since using it preserves the old way of clicking on links and going directly to the source.
Whether Digg will continue to change its functionality in order to push users toward enabling the DiggBar remains to be seen.