You know Digg.com, don’t you? If you haven’t heard of it before (how was your vacation to Mars?), here’s the definition from their website:
Digg is a technology news website that employs non-hierarchical editorial control. With digg, users submit stories for review, but rather than allowing an editor to decide which stories go on the homepage, the users do.
You can read all about them at Digg’s FAQ section.
Digg was founded by, among others, Kevin Rose, formerly of TechTV fame. Despite it having been around for a relatively short time (read Wired News’ Digg Gets Kiss From a Rose for the backstory), it has already become a strong rival to heavyweight tech-site, Slashdot – although some may be quick to point out that both sites tend to complement each other rather than compete.
Such is the buzz on the net that even Kottke was moved to discuss it on his post, Digg vs. Slashdot.
Given the popularity of Digg and it’s relatively unique approach to content and news aggregation, it was only a matter of time before Digg clones began to surface. You can find all the clones by doing a search for Digg clone on Google.
Things really got interesting when a Spanish digg-clone called Meneame.net released its PHP code as open-source, and although it was all in Spanish, sites like this Spanish Digg Meneame Installation Instructions suddenly allowed anyone to host their own Digg-clone themselves.
And before you know it, an “open-source content management system” was created using the Meneame code – it’s called Pligg.
The unfortunate part about this is the use of CSS and images which appear to be a direct rip-off of Digg’s code. If you view Pligg’s CSS source, do a search for digg. The fact it’s there at all is disturbing.
When O’Reilly writer Steve Mallet was alleged to have created sites like LinuxFilter and iTunesLove, it generated a howl of criticism and protest over at Digg, with founder Kevin Rose making a rare comment on the Digg post:
I’ve seen a ton of digg clones, but this is the first to actually copy and paste CSS and use our images. Daniel Burka (digg/mozilla.org designer) put a lot of work into creating the site – it’s sad to see someone steal it (and illegal).
But, of course, if Steve Mallett simply used Pligg to run his site, then the real blame should be placed on the Pligg creators. An article at O’Reilly (Digging The Madness of Crowds) clears it up further by putting the blame back at meneame. Indeed, one of the Pligg developers commented on that article (it’s the first comment) as follows:
I’m one of the Pligg developers. We took the Meneame code in early December and translated it to English. We then decided to add new feature and make it easier for other to use and translate to other languages. We did not realize, until now, that the CSS was taken from Digg and modified to fit Meneame. We just never thought to compare. Now that we do know this, we will rectify the situation.
Well, so far they haven’t done much rectifying, but perhaps it’s early days yet.
The question remains: what are the Digg team going to do about this? Rumours continue to be circulated regarding lawsuits and what-not, but at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be likely.
Not that that is a problem – for now. Since Pligg’s code is open-source, SpyMy is in the clear regarding any claims of rip-offs and plagiarism. (BTW, Diggers themselves have found out about SpyMy. Follow the discussion here – SpyMy – a Digg clone?).
But if (or when) the Digg team decide to take action against Pligg or Meneame, what will happen to all the sites running on Pligg/Meneame? While the mood among Diggers maybe somewhat cynical now, (“it’s the 21st century, the age of the internet, you can’t stop things like that, etc”), that does not necessarily mean that the Digg team aren’t considering the legal implications of possible copyright infringement seriously.
Personally, I hope for several things to happen:
1. Meneame to apologise for lifting Digg’s CSS code.
2. Digg to release their source code under the GPL.
3. Liverpool to win the EPL, Champions League and everything else in between (I just thought I’d slip that in..)
4. SpyMy, Pligg and all Digg clones to live happily ever after.
Looks like SpyMy has made our wishes come true. So go over there and support them, ya hear?