Tuesday, March 31, 2009

URL Shorterners

Image representing bit.ly as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

Twitter provides a great way to interact with influential people and the service is an excellent source for raising your own profile. Milo Yiannopoulos a blogger for the Telegraph I was first introduced to through Twitter after Twestival. He writes about the internet, social media, Twitter, start-ups, civil liberties, climate change, Catholicism, literature, politics and anything else he finds interesting. The following post is available on the Telegraph and is titled 'A beginner's guide to... URL shorteners!' The reason I have also submitted here is because I assisted Milo by providing the relevent details -

Posted By: Milo Yiannopoulos at Mar 30, 2009 at 21:57:00

You've probably seen those weird "short" URLs before. They normally look something like this: tinyurl.com/aj4c6h. When you click on them - try it! - they "expand" in your browser's address bar to the "full" URL. How does it work? You don't need to know. (Really, it's not that interesting. Leave it to the geeks.) What you do need to know is where to find the shorteners. Are you safely strapped in? Then off we go.


is.gd is my personal favourite. I just think it's cool. "is.gd", "is good", get it? No? Here are some of the things you can do with it:
- shorten web addresses for emails, forum posts, blogs etc. which cannot handle long URLs and might wrap them, making them unclickable
- lower the character count when texting web addresses to a mobile phone
- hide the real URLs of affiliate links from visitors to your site
- obscure your real email address from bots which harvest them to spam (enter an address like mailto:myaddress@myisp.com). Note that this feature does appear to be browser-dependent, so such links may not work in every browser
- circumvent protections on sites which don't allow direct links to a competitor's site (if you are violating a site's terms you do so at your own risk)
- clean up bookmarks for social bookmarking sites or sites with low character limits like Twitter

Just roll up to the home page, paste in the URL you want shortened, hit "Compress That Address!" and you're good to go.


bit.ly is like the King of Shorteners. It does a whole bunch of amazing stuff that you'll never need or know about. Stuff like "analytics". It's kind of a pretentious choice. By using bit.ly, you're saying to the world: "It matters to me who clicks on my links and how many times, what their hair colour is and where they buy their groceries. These things matter to me because I am your Geek Overlord." So, yeah. Give it a miss, unless you really need all the fancy stuff.


TinyURL is absolutely rubbish and you should never use it.


When you click a BurnURL, you get a "ShareBar" that allows you to share the link you've created on various social networks. That's helpful. You also get a few basic stats - nothing like bit.ly, but still more than you need. And you can vote links up or down. A solid, respectable option.


Ah, tinyarro.ws. The connoisseur's choice. This site uses Unicode to display the shortest URL possible. Very, very cool. This is the 911 of URL shorteners. (Sorry if that's not a connoisseur's car; I know nothing about automobiles.)

Okay, those should do you. (If you're still not happy, here's an old post from Mashable that features over 90 services, including some that support password protection (groovy!). There are some other big ones I haven't included here.) Hopefully by now you are equipped to shorten those URLs.

But that's not all! There are even more brilliant and exciting ways you can use URL shorteners, including browser plugins. But I'm going to leave those as an exercise for the reader, except to mention Puffing Bear's cool little Mac app, Shrinker (pictured above), that does all THIS incredibly amazing stuff:

- detects URLs on the clipboard or in Safari and shrinks them with one key combo
- runs in the Dock, Menu Bar or both
- has Growl integration for super-slinky notifications
- supports is.gd (win!), TinyURL, bit.ly and tr.im
- has this nifty bookmarklet thing for one-click shrinking in any Mac browser

I use it Shrinker every day. If you have a Mac, you should check it out.

And there you have it! URL shorteners. Enjoy.

With thanks to Joe Dawson (@joedawson).

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