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Twitter URL Shortener Ignores User Habit, May Break Links

by Leslie Poston | September 21, 2010September 21, 2010 2:00 pm PDT

The social web has been abuzz with all of the changes at Twitter lately. From something relatively overdue and sweeping like part one of a massive user interface change to shortening and tracking links, there has been something for everyone to talk about.

I’m not someone who uses the web interface to surf Twitter. Since I have so many clients to track and monitor, I tend to use Seesmic Desktop and CoTweet for my Twitter needs soI can handle multiple accounts at once. Even so, I think the new user interface is only a good thing. It’s been needed for quite some time, and while change is often painful, I think users will end up liking it, especially the inline photos and videos and other features.

twitter birdThat said, I think the Twitter URL shortener and tracking will take a bit more getting used to and will create a bit more outcry. In case you haven’t heard, Twitter is rolling out their own URL shortener this year that will appear as ¬†http://t.co, and all links will be formatted that way. What’s more, in the inline stream they’ll show a partial reveal of what you are about to click.

It’s the partial reveal that has folks worried. User habit dictates that sometimes people will try to copy and paste things to other places instead of using the tools you give them to share in a specified manner and place. When you copy and paste the truncated URL preview from a t.co shortened URL, the link breaks. It simply doesn’t translate the whole clickable link out of the abbreviation (Steve Garfield took the time to give us illustrations in an article he wrote on the effect this will have specifically on YouTube links).

This is a potential issue that will frustrate users. If Twitter’s goal is truly to be an information source, as they said at their press conference the other day, this is something they’ll want to fix sooner rather than later. Since the t.co roll out is only partial, they still have time to quietly handle it, saving everyone grief.


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