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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Short URL’s Are Entertainingly Out of Control

Comments (32)

I’m really pleased that FeedBurner has finally implemented a Socialize feature.  With a few settings, I can now connect my Twitter account to my FeedBurner profile and, when I post something to my blog, have it automatically tweeted out.  There are plenty of nice options to help me format this and the traffic data is supposed to show up in my Google Analytics account, but I haven’t seen it yet.

While I love that I no longer have to do anything to tweet my post (no Mom, that’s not an obscene thing to do, although it sure sounds like it) one thing annoys me.  The short URL.  It’s Goo.gl/fb/…  That’s both (a) not so short and (b) not what I want.  I want fndry.gr/.  That’s my happy short URL that I get from using Awe.sm

I’ve now gone through the following Short URL evolution with Twitter.  I started with TinyURL and manual shorted my URL’s before I tweeted them.  That was a long time ago.  Then Twitter started automatically shortening them with TinyURL and that made it a little easier.  Then Twitter started using Bit.ly to shorten URLs so I switched to Bit.ly.  Then I started using TweetDeck with automatically shortened things using Bit.ly and that made it even easier.  But then we got our own customer URL shortener (fndry.gr) via Awe.sm.  And I shortened things manually for a while.  Then I installed Tweetmeme on my blog and shortened things using bit.ly again for a few days until I figured out how to using the API to use Awe.sm at which point I started using fndry.gr again until FeedBurner Socialize came out.  Now I’m using Goog.gl/fb/

Confused yet?

Oh – and my stats are totally foobared.  I’ve got partial stats about click throughs in Bit.ly, Awe.sm, and Google Analytics.  I realize this is totally self imposed as I shift from shortener to shortener, but I’m just trying to get to the nirvana of (a) using a shortener that I want (fndry.gr), (b) not having to do anything to shorten a URL  (e.g. I want it integrated into my workflow), and (c) having stats about click throughs.

When I went looking around to see how many distinct URL shorteners there are, I was surprised at how lame the Wikipedia page for URL shortening is.  I expected a comprehensive directory – no suck luck. A Google search on URL shortener  wasn’t much help either.  A Bing search on URL shortener was a little better (eek!) and ironically pointed to a Google Knol on URL Shorteners.  Of course, Joshua Schachter’s fantastic rant On URL Shorteners was appropriately at the top of Bing’s search results (Joshua now works at Google if you missed the irony of that one.)

I finally found a Mashable directory on URL Shorteners (90 of them) but it’s from January 2008 – ergo very obsolete.

This is now officially a complete mess.  And it’s going to get a lot messier with the brand spanking new Facebook short URL fb.me.  I can’t wait to see Microsoft’s URL shortener – I’m guessing something like Microso.ft/bing/.

Someone please stand up and help stop the madness.  Al Gore, where are you when we really need you.

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  • http://twitter.com/stoweboyd @stoweboyd

    I got 'sto.ly' to use with Bit.ly pro. But I can only use it with one service at a time.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    Sto.ly is a great one.  I always associated you with Libya.

  • http://simurl.us Greg

    very true, i use simurl.us (as it is mine. lol), There really are way to many out there.

  • Paul Farkas

    got nyc.ly a bit back to do a geo one, hadn't had the time yet..

  • Davie J

    personally I love http://fwd4.me – they're the best!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      When you use it to shorten http://feld.com you get the URL http://fwd4.me/8vG and a message “(your long url was 15 characters long and your short url is 18 characters, that's a reduction of -3 characters!)”  Seems like someone didn’t check before shortening since the short version of http://feld.com should be – err http://feld.com
      />

      • Charlie

        Sign of the apocalypse right there :)

  • http://twitter.com/falicon @falicon

    I've been thinking about this lately as well thanks to all the press about Google, Facebook, and Bit.ly releases…to me, there are a bunch of problems that need addressed if it's ever going to get cleaned up:

    1. As far as I know, all the short url services take any link and shorten it based on their own system…none really care or pay attention to the actual domain they are shortening (though I think bit.ly pro may change this)…what I mean is that regardless of the shorturl service you use for feld.com the resulting short url *should* have some way for the viewers to realize it's ultimate destination is feld.com…

    2. This of course would require some sort of standard or at the very least a central body (not unlike DNS and name severs actually)…

    3. And some education on the user side (people would need to learn what the new naming convetion/rules are so they could quickly see that /bf from any url shortner reffers you to something on the feld.com domain)

    And all of that doesn't really have any financial benefit to the URL shortner services and only somewhat benefits the users because of the peace of mind they'll get before clicking on a random link (though whomever become the central repo for the short url rules could financially benefit a lot — like InterNic once did)…which of course means that there's likely no chance any of this happens…

    BTW – I own pu.ly , pa.ly , tym.ly , wow.ly , and grou.pe that all *could* be good URL shortners…but I grabbed each for a specific service/idea (it's just a planned side benefit that they are each short enough to make 'small link sharing' friendly)…

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      Good points – I agree with each of them.  There’s a huge opportunity here – somewhere.

      • http://twitter.com/charlieok @charlieok

        This might be something the web standards bodies and browser makers could deal with. A document containing a link could provide a hint that this is just an "intermediate" link, and it will return a redirect response giving the "real link".

        That has the advantage of being the actual behavior of all those shorturl links in existence today, already.

        The HTML standard has a "rel" attribute that can give extra information about links:
        http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work

        None of the existing options seem to fit ("prefetch" comes close…). Maybe a new one is in order. How about "redirect", meaning the author of the document expects that this link is just a redirect. A browser could elect to resolve that link when it loads the page, so that (say) the user sees the real link in mouse hover text.

        None of that deals with short links that disappear though. Maybe we could add a way of recording a real link in metadata belonging to a short link. This might be useful if some consumer of tweets wanted to recover that information and reattach it to the links…

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrewhyde Andrew Hyde

    mine is conveniently thisreallyimportantlinkissentwithlovefromandrewtoyouandnobodyel.se because a social media expert told me to.

    Branding.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      LOL!

  • Jon K

    http://urlshorteningservicefortwitter.com <– works beautifully.
    ^^ Really.

  • Tim

    m$sft.com

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1061629357 Rob Freeborn

    Note….it's FUBAR (f'ed up beyond all recognition)

    r.

  • http://twitter.com/connectme @connectme

    On a more serious note Brooklyn has its own short URL – bk.ly. The problem is the designers copied bit.ly too closely without thinking about local info navigation. An example is that all of bk.ly's results are all hashes.

    For example, when dealing with Brooklyn restaurant Rose Water, I argue bk.ly/rosewater is superior to bk.ly/bb8. It's more memorable, period – important not only for getting back to that restaurant, but the URL architecture lends itself to intuiting how to get to other restaurants without having to use a search engine.

    Taking this a step further, I implemented a short URL at twavl.com, so http://go.twavl.com/elevenmadison not only gets you to Danny Meyer's noted Manhattan restaurant, but it makes sure important information is front and center, whether you are using a web browser or an iPhone.

    (When digging through all of this manure, there's got to be a pony somewhere…)

  • Chris Walters

    Brad, just an FYI, not sure why this happens but when clicking the 'retweet' button from your RSS feed in my Outlook @bfeld isn't mentioned… here's the actual retweet msg…

    RT @tweetmeme Short URL’s Are Entertainingly Out of Control http://bit.ly/8ijv4D

    When using the 'retweet' button from your site its this:

    RT @bfeld Short URL’s Are Entertainingly Out of Control http://fndry.gr/1140w

    Twitter handles and URL's are different? Feature or Problem?

    CW

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      Definitely a problem.  It looks like I’ve either got this configured incorrectly in Tweetmeme OR there’s a bug in how it sends stuff to the RSS feed.  Either way, thanks for the heads up – I’ll poke around.

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  • Eze

    I personally use http://sl.ly and like the option of adding a + to the end of the URL for a preview. There is a huge list of shorteners at http://shortnit.com if your interested.
    More than 350…

  • http://twitter.com/mutualmind @mutualmind

    Brad – here is my take on the situation of short URLs.
    http://mutualmind.com/blog/2010/02/the-long-futur

    From a social media analytics angle, all this fragmentation and 'control' is a hindrance for businesses to get the insights they need.

    Babar

  • http://www.replica-china.net replcia handbags

    A very good article, I will always come in.

  • http://www.twurlit.com Rick Fran

    As a result of the rapid rise in Twitter we have also seen a massive explosion in URL shortening sites and yes we also own one as well http://www.twurlit.com its new i wont hide that fact but alot of these sites will fall by the wayside over time.

    Rick Admin @ http://www.twurlit.com

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