Sunday, May 31, 2009

URL Shorteners

by Marsha Ward

We all know how long URLs can get, those Uniform Resource Locators that point to website addresses. This is especially so when we're dealing with "absolute" URLs, or the unique addresses for exact blog pages or online magazine or newspaper articles.

Long URLs can be a nuisance. They can get so long in emails, for example, that they fold over into two or three or more lines, often "breaking" and causing problems for those unschooled in Internet use and how to reconstruct broken links.

With the popularity of social media sites and Twitter, where shorter messages are desirable or required, the problem of long URLs has become, well, a greater problem.

Thus, we have seen the growth in recent months of URL Shorteners, websites dedicated to converting the long URL to a smaller code that redirects the user to the absolute URL. One of the first,--and still probably the largest--is TinyURL.com, but there are dozens to pick from. Some I have seen used frequently by people I follow on Twitter are:
is.gd
bit.ly
short.to
tr.im
hub.tm
and snipr.com

See how some don't use the dot com domain convention? Dot com is the business or "commercial" top-level domain (TLD) extension we see in so many URLs. But...there are many more, like dot net, dot biz, dot us and even dot tv.

Those last two, dot us and dot tv, are actually "country code top-level domains," or ccTLDs. The United States has been assigned dot US by the governing body of such things, the IANA, or Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. Dot TV is the country code of the nation of Tuvalu, whose Ministry of Finance and Tourism rents out the use of the code to the television industry!

So it is with other URL shorteners that don't end in dot com. Bit.ly uses a Libyan address, is.gd originates on the island of Grenada, short.to gets its code from Tonga, hub.tm (hubspot) is authorized through Turkmenistan, and tr.im is licensed by the Isle of Man.

There is much discussion on the competitive blogosphere of whether URL shorteners are evil or not, depending on if you need search engines to bump your site to the top of their lists to gain revenue or not. It appears using URL shorteners may confuse the issue of who gets the recognition for the visit to your site. Discussion also centers on whether longevity of the shortener sites will be a future problem.

I'd suggest that if you send an email or tweet or update your Facebook profile, using a shortener to suggest a link is of little concern, since those are momentary communications. If you post a link on your website--designed to be up and sending links to presumedly long-lived sites--you'd better use absolute, though long, URLs.

That's up to you to decide.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great technical advice, Marsha!!!!

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  2. Actually that makes me want to learn more, ha. Thanks.

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  3. I'm so behind technologically, every bit of help--helps. Thanks!

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  4. You're all welcome! It's great to learn more.

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  5. Impressive. I've got a new piece of trivia for slow moments of conversation. I'll whip it out the next time I don't know what to say. Thanks.

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  6. LOL, Christine! Keep it handy.

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  7. I'm impressed, even though I didn't quite grasp most of it, so I'm filing away in my mind that this blog was yours, Marsha, and posted the last of May, just prior to the month in which I was married, so in case I ever get advanced far enough to know what it's saying, and realize how I can use it, I'll know where to find it.

    As you see, I love short-cuts ... and short sentences.

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