URL shorteners’ main strength was the fact that twitter didn’t shorten URLs. But now it does, so it is almost entirely useless to shorten your URLs. Almost. There are two cases that are still valid, and even though I dislike url shorteners, these use-cases will keep them alive for a while:
- analytics – in case you don’t own the site where the link points but you want to track your engagement, then intercepting the link is the only way to know how many people clicked the link.
- readable form for for really long URLs – many sites include too many details in their URLs (because they need to), but that becomes unreadable when shared. So people need a short version.
However, bit.ly/fXgfWr doesn’t tell you much. And since we no longer need the URLs to be short, URL shorteners should add a new option. An example link shortened by welshare‘s URL shortener would look like this (though not yet implemented):
So what are the components:
- the url shortener domain
- a short (limited to around 30 symbols) version of the original URL, without http://
- an optional /XXX suffix for the user who shared the link (depending on the implementation this can preceed the url)
This way you get the analytics and you get a short, but still meaningful URL, telling you exactly where you will land after clicking it. As we no longer need URLs to be as short as possible, we can get rid of that part, retain the analytics part, and improve on readability.