URL Shorteners – the herpes of the web

With the proliferation of social media services the use if URL shorteners has escalated to a point that you can't turn around without another one popping up. Everyone and their brother it seems whants to be a copycat Web 2.0 service and what easier one to pick that some silly assed URL shortener. One would hope that at some point the thought would sink in that maybe – just maybe – we have enough ways to shorten and track a URL.

It would appear now that the newest riff on this disease on social media is for us to create our own in the hope that this will cancel out the fear that if some URL shortening service goes down it won't leave dead links that should be pointing to your site ending up instead looking like littered used water bottles across the web. Hell even my good buddy Mark has rolled his own URL shortener and while I'm sure he has his reasons I can't figure out why we need even the number of shorteners we already (sorry Mark:) ).

A lot of fuss was raised recently over a new breed of URL shorteners hitting the web when Digg released its Diggbar that wraps your site within their frames code and provides a URL shortener as part of the deal. This is similar to what Facebook has done with their web based toolbar and follows along with what Hootsuite, a toolbox of goodies for Twitter users, does with the integration of the ow.ly URL shortener. Now we find out today that even The New York Times has gotten into the act with their own shortening service.

As I thought about writing this post I wondered just how many URL shortening services there were out there so I did a couple of quick searches and this is what I came up with



Is.gdSnurlSniprNSFW.inQurlyQicanhaz.comTiny.ccURLenco.debit.lyPiURL.comLinkBee.comTraceURL.comTweetburnerrubyurl.comtnij.orgabbrr.com – Spanishfon.gs2big – Germantwurl.ccKnol.meTr.imBloat.mecli.gsShort.iekl.amPOPrlidek.netbudURLDiggBarbuzzupchilp.itkrz.chshortna.meow.lyzi.mann.nfrt.tcsn.vclnk.inpnt.meyep.it23o.netfly2.wsne1.netw3t.orgwww.x.seXrl.usShort.toNotlong.com


91 different URL shortening services and that was only after looking for about half an hour, most of which was spent copying them to the list. It's like URL shorteners has become the new "Hello World" for wannabe web developers.

The problem is all they are really doing is creating a potential black hole of broken links at some point in the future. While some like bit'.ly have been able to con convince some VCs that there's money to be made in all those shortened URL the vast majority of them will assuredly disappear. As they do they will be leaving a mess behind them but unfortunately like herpes there will always be some new shortening service popping up.

All this doesn't even take into account the obvious abuse by spammers, phishers and virus writers that things like URL shorteners will allow. As we become blindingly use to clicking on all these shortened URL because of things like Twitter and other social media services it is only a matter of time before shortened URLs blow up in our face.

Update: at the time of posting the URL shortening service from The New York Times has been taken down due to abuse.

Like we didn't know that wasn't coming.

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