Tag Archives: URL Shortening

Twitter to Wrap All Links with t.co Starting in October

According to the Twitter developer documentation, Twitter plans to start wrapping all links with their t.co shortener starting in October. Currently, only ones over a certain length are wrapped.

So if you’re like me, and have a personal URL shortener that generated smaller links than t.co, you probably think this move is a little silly.

On the plus side, Twitter.com and the official Twitter clients (as well as any that use the right API methods) automatically expand all t.co links and display the URL they point to. So users should optimally never see the t.co URLs at all. If you continue to use your own shortener, it’s URLs will be re-wrapped, but users will still see your link.

Developers should check out the t.co URL Wrapper documentation page, as well as the wrap_links parameter in the statuses/update API method.

A Standard to Specify a Canonical Short Link

There has been a small push to create a standard way for a web page to specify a preferred short link for use in places like Twitter. Something like the rel="canonical" trick that tells search engines which page on your domain is the one that should be indexed. Basically, a meta tag to put in the page header, which could then be read by Twitter applications. The end goal is to help reduce the issue of “link splintering,” where everyone ends up linking to the same page with a different URL. (For instance, I could shorten a link to this page with Is.gd, then three others could create their own different Bit.ly links…)

One proposal is rev=”canonical”, but I really don’t I don’t like that option. This comment sums it up pretty well. Rev is too easily confused with rel, and is deprecated in HTML5 to boot. The “canonical” terminology also isn’t fitting, since it implies that the short URL is the preferred URL for the page (i.e. “the short link is preferred over the full one”) rather than an alternate link.

I found it interesting to learn that WordPress 3.0 is going to start automatically including something along the lines of this on permalink pages:

<link rel='shortlink' href='http://fantasyfolder.com?p=32' />

There will be hooks to override it with your own URL (so a plugin could place a single Bit.ly or YOURLS link there on publication), but the URL is irrelevant for the purpose of this discussion. The rel='shortlink' part is what interests me. I think it’s the perfect term to use for this scenario.

I think, whether you use WordPress or not, rel="shortlink" is what you should go with. (If you’re worried about controlling short links, at least.)

Twitter to Launch Their Own URL Shortener

Twitter has announced that they will be launching their own URL shortener, which will be replacing Bit.ly as the default for lengthy links. TechCrunch is convinced that the domain they will be using is twee.tt, which the microblogging service recently acquired.

This should enable Twitter to further their data collection and statistics endeavors, as well as provide an URL shortener that should last as long as Twitter does. It will be interesting to see how things play out.

But what of Bit.ly? How will they fare? Apparently, it won’t effect them much, as Twitter stopped automatically shortening links as of December. Bit.ly is still “encoding” about 3 billion links per month, and their Bit.ly Pro service should help them build a viable business. (There is quite a market for custom-branded short URLs, as well as enhanced statistics.)

The impact on bit.ly may be negligible, at least in the shortrun. It turns out that Twitter stopped using bit.ly as it’s default shortener on Twitter.com back in early December, except for one specific use-case. And even before then, Twitter.com accounted for only about 5 percent of link encodes. Now it is less than 1 percent. Yet bit.ly encoded more than 3 billion links last month an is still growing quite nicely. That is because it is used by many Twitter clients, including Tweetdeck (a betaworks portfolio company).

Ow.ly Removes Toolbar, Launches Second Shortener

HootSuite’s URL shortener, Owl.ly, no longer puts its controversial iframe toolbar atop shortened links. The toolbar has been known to discourage some potential users from trying the HootSuite Twitter client.

As a compromise, HootSuite is launching a second shortener, Ht.ly, that offers the same toolbar. Users will be given a choice as to which shortener they would prefer.

Choice is a good thing in just about any situation, and like ice cream, one flavor doesn’t fit everyone on the web so now HootSuite users can now choose between two flavors of links — one with a social bar and one without.

Next time you login to HootSuite, you can choose which shortener you prefer — Ow.ly, which from today onward will have no social bar, or Ht.ly, which will have the social bar.

Whichever link shrinker you choose will become your default for all links you shorten in HootSuite, including links created with the one-click Hootlet tool.

In related news, “Ow.ly Pro” is being tested by a certain group of HootSuite users. It is much like Bit.ly’s service, allowing you to have your own short domain be used for your URLs.

YOURLS: Your Own URL Shortener

I have been noticing an interesting trend on Twitter and other social media sites. Larger online publications are starting to set up their own private URL shorteners for their content. Ars Technica has arst.ch, TechCrunch has tcrn.ch, and Oneforty has 14t.me, for example. Oh, and The Onion has their own short URLs under their onion.com domain.

Why are they doing this? To solve two problems that URL shorteners often introduce: The first being that they prevent you from seeing what URL you’re going to land on, which could contain malware of some other undesirable content. Having a private, branded shortener domain adds a level of trust. The second issue is that a few URL shorteners have closed their doors, or announced that they were going to. Handling them internally helps to mitigate that risk, since everything is under the publishers’ control.

How do you set up your own URL shortener? The first step is to get a short domain to use. Domai.nr is a great tool to provide inspiration. Once you have a domain, however, you have to make a decision. Do you want to use something like Bit.ly Pro, or do you want to host everything yourself? If you fall into the latter camp, you may want to give YOURLS a try.

YOURLS, or Your Own URL Shortener, is a PHP script by WordPress plugin developers Lester “Gamerz” Chan and Ozh Richard. It lets you setup a nearly-instant URL shortener. All you have to do is download and configure it on your web server. It even collects statistics.

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Bit.ly is the Top URL Shortener

According to Mashable, Bit.ly is the most-used URL shortener, having passed up the aging TinyURL in terms of traffic. But didn’t we already know that? They’re the default shortener for Twitter, they’re the least likely to close their doors (for reasons of funding and long-term plans), and people just seem to like them.

Traffic: Bit.ly vs TinyURL

More interestingly, the Mashable posting covers the rankings and traffic stats for the other four top shorteners.

The top two are Bit.ly and TinyURL, with Ow.ly coming in third with roughly one sixth of Bit.ly’s traffic. Is.gd and Tr.im are a distant fourth and fifth, respectively, with less U.S. visitors between themselves than Ow.ly.

Cli.gs URL Shortener to Close

Hey, remember the epic saga of Tr.im announcing they were going to close, then deciding that they weren’t going to after all? The sequel has arrived! The Cli.gs shortener is shutting down now, though they’re handling it much better. You’ll be able to export your data, and the URLs will also be archived in the 301works project.

Also, the developer behind Cli.gs isn’t taking potshots at Bit.ly for being the default shortener for Twitter, like Tr.im did, and went so far as to state in a comment on Mashable:

I’d like to emphasize that having bit.ly as the default for Twitter is in no way part of the decision to shut down. As I said in the post, it’s a one man operation that has grown too big for me to maintain it.

That is what I call a professional attitude.

Pingdom Ranks URL Shorteners

Pingdom has tested the major URL shorteners for speed and stability, in the aftermath of the Tr.im fiasco, with interesting yet unsurprising results.

One thing that has surprised us a bit here at Pingdom is that we haven’t seen any real numbers on how reliable and how fast these different URL shorteners are compared to each other. After all, adding a layer on top of the target URL (the direct link) means slower access and also adds a single point of failure, so these things should matter.

The top five overall are Ow.ly, Bit.ly, Is.gd, Su.pr, and TinyURL. Tr.im came in dead last. Ow.ly beat-out Bit.ly because of a brief downtime during the period that the study took place.

On a related note, I’ve been hearing a lot of people talking about losing their trust in URL shorteners. My response is to go with Bit.ly or Ow.ly if you’re that worried about longevity. Why? They both (Bit.ly especially) seem to have long-term goals and eventual monetization plans. They’re serious about what they do, and they’re not some fly-by-night operation that could disappear. Bit.ly, I would say, will probably be around as long as Twitter. They have serious funding, from some of the same people who fund Twitter even, Twitter uses them as their default shortener, and they have a grand scheme for the future.

Remember WP.com? Meet the WP.me URL Shortener

Automattic has acquired another wicked-short domain name: WP.me. Not only is it a WordPress.com-specific URL shortener, but it is the only two-letter .me domain in the world, for the time being anyway.

There is now a “Get Shortlink” button next to your permalink when you edit or write a post, and when you click it you’ll get a popup with the beautiful link already highlighted for your copy and pasting pleasure.

If you’re logged in you can also get the shortlink for any page on WordPress.com, there’s a link under the “Blog Info” menu in your admin bar.

Every post on WordPress.com has a short URL assigned to it in the form of http://wp.me/p4P8c-gF7. The nine-letter key is a a bit longer than those of Bit.ly, Is.gd, or the now notorious Tr.im, but I imagine WordPress.com has a lot of content in their system, and more to come certainly. And you can be pretty sure that your WP.me short URLs will last as long as your WordPress.com blog does.

The domain is being used for WordPress.com sites only, and for WordPress blogs that run the WordPress.com Stats plugin.

Tr.im: No, We’re Not Closing After All…

Remember all the hoopla about Tr.im closing down their service? Well, they changed their mind.

We have restored tr.im, and re-opened its website. We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the popular response, and the countless public and private appeals I have received to keep tr.im alive.

We have answered those pleas. Nambu will keep tr.im operating going forward, indefinitely, while we continue to consider our options in regards to tr.im’s future.

They still want to sell, but they’re not shutting everything down as they had initially intended. (As @atomicpoet put it: “Seriously, can’t these guys even commit to the cause of quitting?”)

Tr.im still claims that the reason that they want to get out of the “URL shortening business” is that Twitter has stacked the deck against them.

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