Short URLs for a Short-Lived World

Short URL services have more negatives than they do positives, but the positives are not unique.

The primary argument in favor of short URLs is the business of statistics. But why do we need short URLs to get statistics? I get much more comprehensive stats from my Apache logs and you dont need to be a programming wiz to set up a deep stats system. It’s nice and easy that Short URL services have taken the time to create special stats, but we dont need stat services that hijack web links for someone else’s consequential business.

The argument in favor of short URLs is more of a new justification that helps to satisfy people who subsequently became addicted to using short URLs as a new way of life, due to Twitter’s 140 character length limit. Granted, there is good cause to shorten URLs in this environment, right now.

This is a trend that will fade.

In the meantime, while we work our way through the transition out of short URLs, for any service in business over the next year or two, create your new service with short urls in mind or add a short url option for your preexisting site.

This will also help to solve the the most urgent problem we have with short URLs: No one knows where short URLs will lead them. The following link, for example, is very important to the identity of today’s internet culture but I warn you against clicking on it, because you dont know where it goes – go ahead, I dare you to click on it: http://bit.ly/1628nB

Magma, our new twitter-friendly website, is http://mag.ma and every video gets a short hash for it’s permalink. Thus, when you see a mag.ma link, it will be no surprise; this means a it’s a link to a video and you know where you are going when you click – to the Magma site itself.

For services that already exist consider adding a short URL option as a “share this on Twitter” feature. For example, do to the extent people have been twittering links to our Know Your Meme database, we recently purchased http://meme.ly to give people who tweet a short, meaningful option, one that will make sense for their audience, and one that will lead to the same destination site, every time.