The popular URL shortening service Ow.ly has recently come under fire on Twitter, and is being criticized for “framejacking.” (Framejacking is an unpleasant trick that was employed quite a lot in the late nineties, where someone would load others’ web pages into a frameset along with their own branding and ads. Example.)
I ask you, is what Ow.ly does bad?
How does this thin toolbar, as you can see above in the image, harm you or your website in any way? The bar is thin and unobtrusive. There are no paid ads, and the Ow.ly logo is tiny.
I argue that Ow.ly is useful to your social media-connected readers, and to you. The short URLs are easily shareable on Twitter, like any URL shorteners’, and the toolbar puts Tweet and Share buttons in easy reach, which can score you some retweets, Diggs, and Stumbles, which may lead to more traffic for you.
As a prolific Twitter user, when I read an interesting article, whether it be from Twitter or no, the first thing I do after is post it to Twitter. I have a handy bookmarklet that opens my desktop client (Tweetie) and dumps the link and page title into it. Not everyone has such a thing. People who enjoy Twittering, but aren’t quite as obsessed as I am, often use the Twitter.com web interface. Ow.ly’s convenient Tweet link makes posting an article a snap. Which saves the poster time, and it benefits the publisher.
What does Ow.ly do that hurts your site? I have yet to hear a convincing and logical argument for this opinion.
Ow.ly doesn’t try to pass-off your content as your own; they keep their branding minimal, and it’s clear that the top frame is a toolbar from the shortener, and not part of the site. I also checked for major SEO problems, and Ow.ly’s server sends an HTTP 301 response code, which means search bots should pay attention to the original URL rather than the Ow.ly frameset.
I see this an a win for both users and publishers. I certainly wouldn’t like it if someone framed my content, slapped a large logo on it, and shoved-in a bunch of paid ads, but Ow.ly isn’t doing that. Compare the Ow.ly screenshot above to this one from Tutorialized.com, a real example of what would be considered “framejacking.”
Does that seem the same to you? I don’t think so. One is fairly useful to me as a user and keeps out of my way, while the other leaves me with only 290 pixels of vertical space to view the content I’m interested in, simply for the Tutorialized branding and a bunch of ads. (Of which the content provider doesn’t see a cent.) Honestly, do they seem the same to you?
If you can see a real problem with Ow.ly, speak now.