After exploring a couple of alternatives to the granddaddy of URL shorteners, TinyURL, I had been planning to write a post about why these services are important and what are the advantages and disadvantages.
(By the way, I think it’s kind of funny…a sign of the rapid innovation in social media, really…that a service like TinyURL, which was started in 2002, could be considered an “old-timer.”)
When I found out yesterday that Ragan.com had an article (including a video interview) from a presentation I did in October at SAS in Cary, NC as part of Ragan’s corporate communications conference, I saw a good opportunity for a real-world, practical demonstration of how these services work.
Here was the URL to the Ragan article:
And of course, when you paste a link like that into an email, for instance, what typically happens is that the URL is broken, so that when the recipients of your email click the link they get error messages.
Not a happy outcome.
That’s where TinyURL and similar services come in. Using the browser bookmarklet for TinyURL, I got this message:
By reducing a 215-character URL to 25 characters, it meant I could paste the shorter version into an email (or into Twitter) without worrying about a broken link.
How does this work?
It’s brilliantly simple, really. With a six-character string of letters and numbers, TinyURL can create over 2.1 billion URL options. So when you submit a gigantic URL, TinyURL generates a random six-character code and links it to that URL in a table. Then, when users click that TinyURL link or enter it into a browser, they go to the TinyURL site, which looks up the longer URL and redirects them to the original longer URL.
See the Wikipedia article on TinyURL.
Here are six other link-shrinking options:
BudURL – This service has a free option or a paid upgrade that gives you access to statistics on how many times your BudURLs are clicked. I’m just using the free option, which I think limits me to 25 BudURLs. It also has a browser bookmarklet, which I will describe in the SnipURL discussion.
So that when you are at a page and want to create a SnipURL, you just click the link and it automatically creates one for that page:
Here’s the sequence when I clicked the link from the main page of my blog. This window popped up:
And then I had an opportunity to decide where I wanted to share it (or whether I just wanted to copy to my clipboard)
And when I selected Twitter, it opened a new window with some text pre-populated (and which I then completed):
Adjix.com – This is an interesting one in that it is ad-supported and offers revenue share. When people click your adjix link, a new browser window opens with a narrow ad banner. I think it’s relatively well done and the ads aren’t annoying. Here’s an adjix.com link for this post (which will create a recursive loop). What do you think of the ads? Annoying or OK?
NotifyURL.com – Similar service to some of the others, but you get an email the first time someone clicks your link. More recursive fun.
DwarfURL.com – Not very politically correct, but workable. Here’s the DwarfURL for this post: http://dwarfurl.com/01e3a
Linkbee.com – an ad-supported platform like Adjix. I like the way Adjix incorporates ads, as opposed to Linkbee, although Linkbee does give options. The interstitial ads show up for a few seconds (with the option to skip like some of the newspapers use), and there also is a banner option. What do you think?
TinyURL, SnipURL and BudURL offer browser bookmarklets, which makes the URL shrinking much faster and easier. TinyURL is actually automatically incorporated within Twitter, but I’ve found that it doesn’t always work. Adjix says it has a couple of bookmarklets (and even has video demonstrations of how to use them), but I can’t find the bookmarklets anywhere on its site.
Any of these seven tools will do the job for you. One potential downside of them is that if you use them instead of your long URL you may not get the Google/SEO benefit of links, because the link is to an intermediary site instead of your own site.
I’d appreciate hearing any thoughts you have relating to these services, or others like them that I haven’t reviewed. Please add your thoughts and reviews in the comments, so all SMUGgles can benefit from your experience.