URL Shorteners Bitly, Goog.le, and Tiny URL Make Long URLs Manageable
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URL Shorteners Bitly, Goog.le, and Tiny URL Make Long URLs Manageable

How to use URL redirecting services like goog.le, bit.ly, and TinyURL.

As the amount of information available in our world increases at an ever accelerating rate, it would seem the way we choose to communicate that information becomes smaller and smaller.  What began as email and instant messaging has grown into a never ending network of text messages, tweets (Twitter messages), and Facebook updates.  The internet, and electronic communication in general, is being pulled in two different directions.  Websites require longer URLs to organize larger amounts of information, while users communicate in fewer and fewer characters.  How can someone communicate in a 140 character tweet an address that is 160 characters long?

Here is another scenario: an email newsletter hits your inbox and supplies a link to information you just can't live without.  You click the link in earnest, but it doesn't work.  You try to open the link in a new window, and it is also a no-go.  You painstakingly type in the 137 character URL, and just as you finish pounding out the last "#", you hit Enter and realize you have made a mistake somewhere.  There has got to be a better way, right?

Well, now there is.  A number of competing websites offer a URL redirecting service that turns your most inconveniently long links into a small URL people can easily access.  The process is simple: copy and paste the long URL into the box and out pops a much more manageable shortened URL.  Here are some examples from three of the most popular services.

  • Goog.le - http://goo.gl/MCe5j
  • Bit.ly - http://bit.ly/es5M7U
  • TinyURL - http://tinyurl.com/2dof36w

These small URLs are a far cry from the 154 character monster URL from whence they came: 

http://article.wn.com/view/2011/01/04/Blair_warns_time_is_of_the_essence_for_Mideast_peace_talks/?section=TopStoriesWorldwide&template=worldnews/index.txt.

Before following links from any of these redirecting services, you should first consider where the link is coming from.  Redirected links can take you anywhere, and if the source of the link is questionable, doing your homework can save you the trouble of having to remove a virus or malware from your computer.  LongURL.org works in reverse: just copy the shortened URL into their search bar, and it will show you where it leads. TinyURL actually has a built-in preview  feature that can easily be applied to any TinyURL link you find, whether in print, in text message, or online.  Type in the string "preview." before "tinyurl" in your search bar.  This will take you to a page containing the TinyURL link and the exact URL that it is redirected to.  Here is an example:

  • I have created a link to http://www.google.com that was assigned the tiny URL http://tinyurl.com/1c2.
  • To verify that my new URL leads to Google, I would type in http://preview.tinyurl.com/1c2.
  • So long as I have enabled the preview feature in my browser (if not it only takes a few short clicks to enable it), it will open a page containing the tiny URL I created, and the precise destination of that URL.

The Google URL shortener offers a unique benefit for smart phones: a barcode or GL code that can be captured by taking a picture.  Users take a picture of the image with any properly equipped phone and they will automatically be taken to the destination URL associated with it.  Though the future of this technology is uncertain at the time of writing, it is undeniably a very clever idea with a broad range of applications in print and otherwise.

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