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Are URL Shorteners Really This Important?

URL shorteners have become a vitally important part of our daily lives on the Web due to the need to conserve space in our messages on Twitter, in status messages and so on.  However, while this has formerly been the domain of smaller companies that do nothing but shorten URLs, suddenly it appears the big boys have decided to bring their considerable weight to the fight, and you have to wonder what exactly is attracting them to the space.

urlsAll of a sudden it seems the big boys want to play around with shortening your URLs, but one has to ask what they gain from it.  Services like bit.ly aren’t exactly raking in the dollars, so you have to wonder why Google has launched goo.gl and Facebook has gone with fb.me.  Are the two companies doing this merely as a service to their users, or do they have some sort of grander plan they are working towards that we are unaware of?

Their plans aside, two of the biggest companies on the Web offering us services like these does seem to provide a bit more stability to the space.  When Tr.im announced a few months ago that it was shutting down, suddenly users of the service realized that a service shutting meant that all of those links they had created would no longer function, it raised a lot of questions about the stability of the whole service space.  (tr.im later recanted and the service was saved)  By using a company such as Google or Facebook you should see a much more stable service that has less chances of being shut down without warning.

This isn’t to say that everything will be rosy for these new services.  When you are a company as popular and trusted as these, the numbers of users you are going to attract is quickly going to exhaust your supply of shortened URLs.  Your URL codes are rapidly going to get longer and longer due to your popularity.  While most services start out with six character codes which mix letters and numbers, you’ll run out of those and then move to seven, and then to eight and so on.  As each character is added it is going to become less desirable in its usefulness to people because that will mean one less character to your message.

There are certainly pros and cons to whatever size service you choose to use, but the real question still remains as to why Facebook and Google got into this game. Whatever their reasoning, what’s done is done, and the die has been cast, and if I was a smaller service, I’d be wondering if it’s even worth staying in the game now.

Why do you think Google and Facebook have launched their own URL shortening services?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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