Kill the Gatekeepers

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Tomorrow Digg.com releases version 3.0. Why is this significant? Take a look at this comparison to the New York Times website. Digg.com has about 800,000 unique visitors every day and is doubling in traffic every two months.

Digg is a social news site. There are no editors at this site. Instead the users of Digg submit stories and vote on the stories that have been submitted. Enough votes get a story on the front page. What is really stunning about the fact that the two year old digg.com is on its way to surpassing nytimes.com is that Digg has reached this level of traffic while being focused entirely on technology news (with politics and other tangentially related topics slipping in on the edges). Tomorrow that changes.

Digg 3.0 will add to Technology the following new topics: Science, Entertainment, World & Business (which includes Politics), Gaming and Videos. With this change Digg will directly compete against the New York Times site and other news sites using a traditional editorial model. There are at least two reasons that I find this interesting as a libertarian. First, traditional media has acted as a gatekeeper of what is considered newsworthy. The State has fared pretty well under this arrangement. We have already seen the Internet limit the ability of the State to control information. One can hope that the rise of Digg and similar sites will give us more of that.

Secondly, though Digg.com founder Kevin Rose and CEO Jay Adelson are fond of using the term “democracy” to refer to how Digg news works, I do not think this is democracy in the negative “god that failed” sense. Rather this is democracy in something closer to the “participatory democracy” sense that Rothbard found so promising. Stories do not succeed on Digg because they pass muster with the elite gatekeepers but because regular folks find them interesting. Unlike the once-every-four-years participation available to most people in political democracy, on Digg users can, and do, participate daily even hourly. Starting tomorrow getting a pro-liberty story in front of millions of people can be as simple as submitting it to Digg, (assuming people find it interesting). And, yes, you can post a story about the State’s evil doings on your Blog and then immediately submit it yourself. And the New York Times can’t do a damn thing about it.

5:57 pm on June 25, 2006
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