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
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.
You can set YOURLS up to be either private or public, and it includes features you would usually expect from a third-party URL shortener, such as:
- A bookmarklet that you can use to create new short URLs
- An API that you can use to add YOURLS support to applications like Tweetie 2.
- Click reports, referrer tracking, visitors’ approximate geo location.
- The ability to pick custom keywords instead of using sequential URLs.
There’s even a plugin that you can use to integrate YOURLS into WordPress. But if you want an alternative plugin, one that provides more Twitter-oriented features, my Tweetable plugin now supports YOURLS.
I now have my own shortener powered by YOURLS,
ntgo.us, which I intend to eventually use across my various websites.