The Cost of Shortening Your Link

| On the one hand, URL shorteners are handy tools that shrink long, clumsy internet addresses into cute linklets that can fit into a Twitter message. On the other hand, writes Joshua Schachter, they needlessly slow internet traffic, pose a security risk, and can deprive site owners of valuable visitor information or even revenue. Shorteners can be helpful for individual users, but at a great cost to the internet ecosystem. So what if they all went offline? That could be even worse; suddenly, the web would be littered with tens of millions of tiny, broken links all pointing to middlemen that no longer exist. Schachter calls it the great link rot apocalypse. (HT: Kottke) [%comments]

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  1. Tariq F says:

    I wonder why we really need URL shorteners. Firstly, though I don’t understand the technology behind this, can’t websites eventually learn to do this themselves? Think of Youtube, for example, which seems to have short URLs – versus eBay, which seems to have long URLs from all kinds of long verbose text instructions built into the link.

    Secondly, I don’t think URL shortening is useful for web browsing (who cares when you can click, or just copy/paste) or even emails. It’s mainly useful for Twitter and, to a lesser extent, social networking sites like Facebook.

    And given that Twitter is incredibly moronic, one wonders on the cost/benefits of TinyURLs to support its existence. (Check out this hilarious satirical video on Twitter:

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  2. Michael says:

    So it seems that we need someone to build URL shorteners at the domain level, that are generated by the websites themselves so as not to mess up URL links.

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  3. tudza says:

    Funny, I never expect these URL pointers to stick around, I always thought they were a convenience that would evaporate in a couple days. Hence, I do not worry about the services that serve them going away.

    If you wonder why they are useful, try taking a very long URL and posting it into some email client and sending it off. Many times this breaks the URL into pieces over two lines, which means you can’t click on the thing and get it to work requires two copy and paste operations. No worries for me, but you may as well make things easy for people.

    This is why there were services to provide short URLs before Twitter ever existed.

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  4. Kat says:

    I think Twitter has weathered at least one instance of TinyURL running into trouble for more than a few minutes. That was frustrating, but because I don’t use Twitter for anything more than leisure, it wasn’t a big deal. Also, I only use the links for something I want to send right now, so I don’t care about future functioning.

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  5. @Kondylas says:

    I created my own, branded URL shortener when I started using Twitter for exactly this reason. I operate the website and the database that runs the service, so I control the availability. As long as I stay in business and want the links to be available, they are available to everyone. It presents the same issue for someone that might want to use my service (although the form to shorten a link is currently private) but solves the problem for me.

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  6. Caliphilosopher says:

    Has anyone actually had an issue with putting a shortened link in a blog like this?

    If it takes a small bit of time to do the leg-work to find the real link if it is broken, so what?

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  7. Chuck says:


    “Given that Twitter is incredibly moronic”

    It’s just possible that not everyone you’re addressing will take this as given.

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  8. Chuck says:

    I think another solution would be for sites like Twitter to include some equivalent to an html anchor tag (as many message board platforms do) so that one could use any bit of text to link to another site.

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