Do you remember a time when web pages proudly displayed hit counters? These have long since been replaced by counters showing how many times a site has been mentioned on a social network site. Digg was one of the pioneers in the field of social bookmarks, and now they are looking to make their service even easier to integrate in external web pages by releasing a new writable API. In an under-reported blog post just before the end of the year the Digg API team announced this change:
Today we are releasing a revamped API that allows developers to write/contribute data using OAuth, a feature that many developers have been eagerly anticipating. In this release, Digging and burying both stories and comments are now supported.
Forbes have interviewed Jeff Hodsdon, Digg's lead developer on the project, where some benefits of the new API were identified:
The new writable API will likely mean easier content sharing. Users will be able to authorize an application via a protocol called OAuth and allow it to send actions to Digg on their behalf. For example, you could vote up, or "digg," a story on Forbes.com without ever having to leave the site. That, says Hodsdon, means a likely increase in the amount of actions shared through the platform.
Users will still have to go through the Digg site to submit a story though. Hodsdon estimates that overcoming obstacles in CAPTCHA verification and story duplication detection, designed to keep Digg free from spam, will take around 6 months.
To show off the new API a reference application called Digg Lite has been released. It demonstrates the OAuth authorization, and allows users to digg or bury stories without leaving the site. Developers can download the source code from GitHub. The documentation for the new API has also been made available.
Developing a writable API is a big move for Digg, as their existing API only allowed developers to use Digg as a data source. The move may have been inevitable though, with sites like Facebook and Twitter, both of whom have writable APIs, making inroads into the social bookmarking scene with their "Tweet This" and "Facebook Share" widgets (with more than one site using these widgets at the expense of Digg's own story submission widget).
This competition in the API space is good news for developers, who are gaining more freedom and functionality when interacting with Digg behind the scenes. It also highlights how important APIs are to the success of a site. You can more examples of how the Digg API has been used in our Digg API Profile.