My friend Beegee asked me why her YouTube links look so long, while her friends’ URLs are so short. URL Shortening services are the answer.
A URL like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AxwaszFbDw can be shortened to: http://tinyurl.com/7u72nbThe most popular URL shortener is probably TinyURL. In 2009, Twitter replaced TinyURL with Bit.ly as its default shortener of links longer than 26 characters. There are dozens of services to choose from. A 2008 Mashable article collected over 90 URL shortening services. By the way, WordPress even offers its own “Get Shortlink” feature for your blog posts.
There are a few ways to shorten a long URL:
- Visit an online site, like TinyURL; enter your long URL to receive a shortened version
- Install a browser add-on, like the URL Shorteners for Firefox, or Tiny’s toolbar
- Install short URL software on your machine
Due to spam and other concerns, some websites (including Craigslist, MySpace and Yahoo) ban the use of certain shortened URLs. Another problem with sending short URLs is that the recipient (if they are not familiar with the short URL service) may consider the link a phishing attempt and not visit your link. Personally, I like to know the site I’m visiting. So unless I really trust the sender, to protect myself, I won’t click on an abbreviated URL from a third-party service.
When pasting a long URL in an email, sometimes the URL breaks on to 2 lines. When the recipient clicks on the link, the URL may be cutoff – resulting in an error page. You can often prevent this by wrapping long URLs in angle brackets, like <A LONG URL OR LINKED-TEXT STRING WILL NOT APPEAR BROKEN IF WRAPPED IN BRACKETS>.
Short URL services
- Geeks.com Looks at URL Shorteners
- Wikipedia: URL Shortening