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Digg expands its API, launches 'lite' version

Social news site tweaks API to give third parties more access to core features. While great news for developers, it's a bit odd for a company that makes money off ads.

Digg on Wednesday introduced a small change to its developer API that could have a big effect on the need to visit Digg.com.

The company is now allowing third parties extended write access to the site, which will give users the option to Digg and bury both stories and comments from outside applications. Short of allowing users to submit and comment on stories, these new changes will provide much of the same experience as visiting Digg.com with whatever interface third-party developers have created.

Along those same lines, the company has also launched a reference page for what developers can now create called "DiggLite." This is a stripped-down version of Digg.com's home page that includes all features developers can implement in their own tools. But it's missing many of the bells and whistles found on Digg proper. The company is also planning to update its Firefox toolbar add-on to let users Digg any page they are on without having to visit Digg itself.

DiggLite is a less featured version of Digg that makes use of Digg's new writeable API calls. It also features no advertising. CNET

Prior to Wednesday's tweak, Digg had updated its API back in mid-June, giving developers access to its overhauled search engine, as well as tweaking its usage terms to allow for commercial applications. It also allowed third-party apps to view some user data, including stories any particular user had favorited, which paved the way for third-party recommendation tools.

The move to give developers more of Digg.com's features is an exciting one for developers, but a bit odd given Digg's current business model of pushing advertising on its users. In recent years, the site has filled in with more ads, including a recently-released (and notably experimental) advertising model that has users control how long certain ads get to stay on the site by voting on them as if they were regular news stories. There was even a campaign from McDonalds a few weeks ago that placed certain upcoming stories within the context of being as fresh as a breakfast sandwich.

So it does seem a little odd the company would be willing to risk losing a few users to third-party Digg front-ends that offer up a (now richer) Digg experience. This could become even more muddled when the company extends its API to allow users to submit new stories and comments--something it hinted at in Wednesday's blog post. Then again, between this and the launch of its real-time Trends experiment, it could just be a sign that Digg's real-time home page overhaul is ready to roll.