It must have been World URL
Shortener Day yesterday.
First came the news that Facebook
has been testing a URL shortener, fb.me. Then Google
announced the arrival of Goo.gl. And though it wasn't as flashy as the
first two pieces of news, those paying attention saw that URL shortener
announced a new Pro version that allows users to create custom shortened URLs.
Let's face it. Some URL are so long and cumbersome that there's no way
to even read it to someone over the phone or shout it across the room.
When you're linking to an image on a page in a subdirectory, the URL
can go on for approximately 12,000 pages, it seems. So even before
Twitter, there was a call for tinyurl.com (which, incidentally, allowed
you to customize your shortened URL) and its many imitators. Newer
iterations, however, give you serious analytics to go along with the
shortened URL, so they've become essential devices in measuring traffic
and where it came from.
The rise of Twitter
from geek to mainstream status has made them even more essential, and
earlier this year bit.ly introduced j.mp, which just may be the
shortest URL shortener on the planet. StumbleUpon has its own - su.pr;
Digg does, too - digg.com, with the post-slash portion always starting
with a "d" before the series of letters and numbers.
Bit.ly's analytics give you information on where the clicks came from,
including AIR apps. Su.pr suggests the best time of day for you to
share its links via Twitter and/or Facebook. Digg's simply tells you
how many views you've had (Digg's shortener is a bit different from the
rest as its primary purpose is to bring new traffic to Digg.com - if
you're not already signed in to Digg, clicking on the link will take
you to a Digg page rather than the article page with the frame at the
What's interesting about these new shorteners is that Facebook and Google are the Big Boys.
is the largest social networking site in the world, with more than 350
million subscribers (more than the population of the United States,
according to the U.S. Census Bureau). It's not providing analytics yet,
but if it decides to do that, it could automatically become the
default. So many people on Facebook are not big users of Twitter or
other applications where shorteners are used. Some may not even be
aware that URL shorteners exist. If they start using the Facebook
shortener because it's there, it could become a monster in the field
almost overnight. Also nice: Any Facebook link can be shortened just by
adding "fb.me" where "www.facebook.com" is - so http://fb.me/HotHardware
takes you automatically to http://www.facebook.com/HotHardware
, for example.
Of course, until Facebook starts providing analytics, people who are
using bit.ly and similar services aren't going to make the jump.
As for Google
the 'Net behemoth has made few missteps to this point. Despite its
gargantuan size and the massive amounts of data about ordinary people
that it has control over, it has a pretty good reputation and most
people like the company. If Google were to somehow merge the shortener
with Google Analytics, which already is the top free analytics tool for
bloggers, it could easily take over. It also is only available on
Google URLs for now anyway.
But for now, bit.ly is the default URL shortener on Twitter, which is
where the largest number of people are using the shorteners. With an
app like TweetDeck, for example, you don't even have to press a button
to shorten if you don't want - it can be set up to auto-shorten any
URL, and unless you change your preferences, bit.ly's what you'll get.
So the company's decision to give paying users the ability to customize
is shrewd. Instead of a publication such as the New York Times branding
another product through its shortened URLs, for example, the company
can create a shortened URL base of "nyti.ms," which would make it more
transparent to the end user where they're clicking through to even
without the new anti-shorteners that have sprung up, such as
"untiny.me" and "real-url.org."