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What is the purpose of shortening URL service?

Are shortening URL service related only to the fact that a single Twitter message has a small characters limits? Or does they have other uses?

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hard to believe but there was internet before the 140 chars per message limit :) –  akira Jun 30 '10 at 22:25
    
lol, you are right, but only in the last couple of years or less I saw the "explosion" of this services –  Drake Jul 2 '10 at 12:32

6 Answers 6

up vote 7 down vote accepted
  • Shorter URLs are easier to work with, you can spell them over the phone, etc.
  • Most URL shortening services allow you to monitor their use.
  • Short URLs don't break in e-mail. Some e-mail clients break long lines of text and this can cause the URL to be unclickable or it can lead to wrong address (half of the URL is cut off).
  • If your character count is limited (e.g. Twitter), short URLs come in handy.
  • Also URL shorteners can prevent linkrot. You can create a shortened URL. Then if the original URL changes, you can update the shortened URL with new URL. People that click on the short URL will allways be redirected to a correct URL.
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I received sometimes email with URL truncate on more lines but I never thought about the problem of spelling an URL at phone. Thank you –  Drake Jul 2 '10 at 12:34

(well, tracking the urls is a side effect, but )mainly: make urls shorter.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=de&geocode=&q=Mountain%2BView%2C%2BKalifornien%2C%2BUSA&sll=52.130956%2C11.636701&sspn=0.342681%2C0.699692&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Mountain%2BView%2C%2BSanta%2BClara%2BCounty%2C%2BKalifornien&t=h&z=13

to

http://goo.gl/9hbF

you could memorize the latter one, even tell it via fone.

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URLs can be really long, and long URLs can break when passed around through email, social networks, etc. So URL shorteners can help by (a) making them shorter and potentially (b) making them more readable. Many URL shorteners have added a feature to track clicks on that URL -- and aggregate information about those clicks. (Time of day, geography, source of the click, etc.) For publishers that's a huge benefit -- URL shorteners can not only prevent breakage when URLs are passed around, but they can learn more about traffic to their site.

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1  
Similarly, tiny URLs are sometimes even MORE useful when giving them out for other people's site...a great way to track links given to others and seeing how many times and places they are being picked up at. –  Tall Jeff Jun 30 '10 at 23:04

People started using URL shortening services long before Twitter existed. I think Tinyurl was around in 1999. However, Twitter has made these services much more popular.

Some URLs are extremely long. 200+ characters. For these, I see the use for URL shortening services. If you're writing an email, and want to stick to the old standard of 80 characters wide, then URL shortening services can be useful.

But overall, yes I think you touch on a point. URL shortening services aren't always useful and can actually be harmful. If someone posts a Tinyurl on Slashdot, it's almost guaranteed to point to something gross.

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When sending a plain text email you are limited to less than 78 characters a line so if a URL is longer than 78 characters I would break. This also cause issue when copying an pasting the URL in the address book because it contains a new line.

You could wrap the URL in < and > which is in the mail message RFC 5322.

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One of the best uses of URL shortener are for making web content easier to access when the link is displayed on a screen or given verbally. I have used them many times at my job when I need to direct a user to a URL over the phone and they had issues typing it in.

When giving a presentation you can use Short URLs to make it easier for people to write down the link or type it into their browser. For example, there was a presentation about Google Chrome Extensions that used short URLs to link to the full slide deck (j.mp/crx201) and to additional resources that people might want to read up on.

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