Services & Software

Firefox gets tight with Digg

A new add-on pulls Digg data for every page you visit...and sends your browsing history to Digg, too.

Digg launched an API recently, a way for developers to write new ways to submit stories to Digg and to extract data from the service. One intriguing new app that uses the API is the Smart Digg Button for Firefox. There have been toolbar icons that make it easier to Digg stories before, but what this add-on does is a little different. It tells you, in the lower-right corner of your browser, how many Diggs the page you're visiting already has. If you click on the notification, you can add your own Digg, too.

Simple and a little scary: Digg stats for every page you visit. CNET Networks

It's a cool idea because it shows you how popular every page you visit is among the Digg audience. But it's a little troubling, as well. As Digg users have noticed, in order to get its data, the add-on is sending the URL of every page you visit to Digg. I'll say that again: If you use this add-on, Digg is collecting your browsing history from this step forward. Whether or Digg actually saves the data or analyzes it is unknown, but this tool--which Digg didn't even build itself--does give the company a scary capacity to collect deep information about its users. It reminds us, of course, of Google, and the recently-released Web History feature that reveals to you what Google already knows: Every page you've visited after you installed the Google toolbar. In other words, the Smart Digg Button tool badly needs an "off" button.

Still, I am always curious to know what the Digg community thinks of a particular page, so I'd like it developed further. I like ActiveWeave's BlogRovr (review) feature that pops up related commentary from around the Web on pages I visit. I think it'd be pretty cool if either the Smart Digg Button or BlogRovr would pop up commentary on pages from the Digg user base.

As with Digg in general, the Smart Digg Button add-on needs some work done on disambiguation. You might be viewing a page that's already on Digg, but the tool won't show an accurate Digg count because the URL you're using isn't the same one that's been Dugg. If you clicked on a link from a tracked Web site (like CNET) or from an e-mail, RSS feed, or a site's syndication partner, this is likely to be an issue.

If you don't identify with the Digg mob, skip this tool. But if you want to see a quiet but running indication in your browser of what Digg thinks of the pages you visit, it's a worthwhile download.