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Shorten that web address!

January 28, 2011

Have you ever wanted to email students the address (URL) of a web page but it was just too long? Here’s a link for an informational flyer on Creative Commons, for example – http://wiki.creativecommons.org/images/6/62/Creativecommons-informational-flyer_eng.pdf. If you have a cooperative email program, there’s no problem. But if the message line containing the address gets split, watch out.

Faculty members who have the right expertise can add links to a course web page, but sometimes you don’t have time for that. You need a way to make those long addresses shorter. Enter the URL shorteners. Visit one of these sites, paste your long address into a text box and click a button. Up comes a very short URL that, when clicked, forwards to your long address.The long address above for Creative Commons shortens to bit.ly/9HOsXl, for example.

The main URL shortening services are

  • bit.ly – the most popular, a bit commercial
  • TinyURL.com – the original, very basic
  • goo.gl – the new kid on the block

Here’s a personal example: the address of the home page for my course this semester is http://www.nd.edu/~cclark2/capp30523/index.html. That’s not ridiculously long, but tinyurl.com/capp30523 is much shorter and easier to remember. At TinyURL you can request a specific address, if it’s available. You can do the same at bit.ly if you are a member (free).

One more example: Google forms have terribly long addresses with embedded JavaScript, like https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?hl=en&formkey=dEdsOXNicXFtVE1jWUEwcS16YXcxN2c6MQ#gid=0.
Isn’t goo.gl/NZsFm a lot easier?

Surprisingly, this kind of service has been available for nearly ten years. How do they make money? Bit.ly offers a “Pro” service that will give you special addresses and track hits. TinyURL takes donations.

Issues

  • International law – Libya controls the ly domain, so they could shut down bit.ly
  • Blocking – Saudi Arabia has allegedly blocked tinyurl.com, and Panera Bread blocks its use over their free wi-fi
  • Wikipedia and Craigslist do not accept shortened URLs

Background – URL shortening – at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2011 10:05 pm

    I’m a big fan of URL shorteners. I started using them on Twitter, where there’s a limit on the number of characters per tweet. But then I realized that those really long URLs bugged me wherever I saw them, so now I shorten URLs in emails, Word docs, just about anywhere.

    What makes this easy for me is the is.gd add-on for Firefox. With that plugin installed, I have a small red “is” button next to my address bar in Firefox. Anytime I want to shorten and share an URL, I just load that URL in Firefox and click that button. The is.gd shortened URL is then stored in my clipboard, ready for pasting. Easy!

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