David Simpson

Is URL shortening important?

Posted on October 25, 2011

In current times, and in many ways, the way we look at data is being optimized or shortened as small as possible. URL shortening is one way to save on character usage where it counts on a site like Twitter.

So to start lets get down to what URL shortening is, and for that I'll defer to the Wikipedia definition:

URL shortening is a technique on the World Wide Web in which a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) may be made substantially shorter in length and still direct to the required page. This is achieved by using an HTTP Redirect on a domain name that is short, which links to the web page that has a long URL. For example, the URL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/URL_shortening can be shortened to http://bit.ly/urlwiki or http://tinyurl.com/urlwiki. This is especially convenient for messaging technologies such as Twitter and Identi.ca, which severely limit the number of characters that may be used in a message. Short URLs allow otherwise long web addresses to be referred to in a tweet. In November 2009, the shortened links on one URL shortening service were accessed 2.1 billion times.

Normally, a URL shortening service will use the top-level domain of a country that allows foreign sites to use its extension, such as .ly or .to (Libya and Tonga), to redirect worldwide using a short alphanumeric sequence after the provider's site address in order to point to the long URL.

Here is a good usage example:

Typically when we have posted a new blog article or posted any link in general to twitter it has been the full length. The problem with that? Well because of the length it would be so long we would lose valuable space to describe what the link was for. Twitter now includes a built in service that leverages the t.co domain but the API doesn't always fire depending on what service you are using to post the tweet. So here is the link to this new blog posting for our example scenario.

Wordpress Permalink:


Yourls API URL:


So we have essentially gone from 54 characters to only 8 characters, that is a 575% decrease in URL length!

Other Short URL Players: Bit.ly, ShortURL

For our needs and the power of our cloud hosting solution we opted to go open source platform and host our own service with Yourls http://yourls.org. Hosting your own service isn't always necessary, so we can also assist with setting up your new short domain with service like Bit.ly. It is free to sign up for a Bit.ly Pro Beta account. With the PRO account, you’ll be able to set up your customized short URL and view statistics on the customized short links that you create. It can and might take as long as a week for bit.ly to approve your registration at this time. The thing to keep in mind is that this service is in BETA, and you can assume that after the official launch they will charge for this service.

Future Plans

For right now we have decided to keep our URL shortening service private for the exclusive use of branded URLs for the strengthening of our online brand. Hard to say if we will ever change our thoughts on this, but for now there is no foreseeable plan to. The other reason is we are looking to sell this as a service to our clients, or anyone looking to also strengthen and promote their online image. Need more information about the cost involved to deploy such a service?

No problem, email [email protected] and we can get started setting up your new URL service today!

The end

What do you think?

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