URL Tall Tales

I really enjoyed Bit.ly versus Goo.gl, by Jonah Keegan. It was written in December 2009, about the impact of the new Google short URL service, goo.gl on link relationships throughout the internet.

Bit.ly and Goo.gl: A URL Shorter Story?

Jonah indicated that bit.ly, owned by BetaWorks, was the most commonly used URL short link service. He described how many users were baffled about how to use Goo.gl, myself included! Also, goo.gl was restricted to Google product pages only, and not for broader consumer use. See image* for details, and please click to view with better resolution.

Google shorter URLs

The demand for shortened URL’s has burgeoned. Bit.ly self-describes as The Bitlyverse! The Bitlyverse includes a private beta version, Bitly Pro, an ultra-short URL service, j.mp, for those times when conserving an extra byte is critical, and bitly.tv. There’s a showcase of moving images on bitly.tv. However, I like the Bitly Labs description:

bitly.tv: Lowering worker productivity since 2009!  The first bit.ly skunk works project to see the light of day, bitly.tv feeds you the hippest and trendiest videos from around the web in real-time.  So pull up a chair… and let your work day slip away.

Shortened URLs are useful URLs

Moving forward into the here and now, Twitter has its own URL shortener (t.co/xxxxx), as do most other sites of newsworthy content, e.g. The New York Times (nyt.ms/xxxxx), Reuters (reut.rs/xxxxx), even MySpace (mysp.ce/xxxxx). Why? Because the shortened URL’s are valued for tracking purposes, to decide who’s the most popular Twitter kid on the block. No, not really. Rather, they are used by Twitter “influence metrics” services, based on frequency and propagation, maybe even persistence, of re-tweets.

URL shortener’s can be used in other contexts besides Twitter, for the same reason: Each is unique, and gives the ability to track the URL life-cycle. There is interest in personally branded URL shortener’s. Duplication is not a concern, but the Twitter platform is constantly changing. Anyone who relies on URL tracking would prefer having a repository of links that were not vulnerable to loss should the URL shortening provider cease operation.

Goo.gl usability

One warning about goo.gl: It must be run from the Google toolbar. The Official Google blog post specified requirements for using goo.gl when it first debuted last year. This means that you have no choice other than to install Google’s toolbar in your browser if you want to use goo.gl.

Minor surprise ending

A tidbit of Google trivia allows me to end on a whimsical note, which is better than my usual dark tidings of Ragnarök, the new New Delhi super virus, our never-ending War in Iraq, online surveillance, illegal aliens, illegal extra-terrestrial aliens and so forth. Apparently Google gives code names to some or all of its products. The Google internal name for the December 2009 version of the toolbar, enabled for goo.gl, was Dangermouse. It led me to follow the trail here, where I shall end my little tale!

A is for Astroboy and D is for Dangermouse

UPDATE November 2012

Google URL shorteners

Google short URLS everywhere

Google removed the toolbar restriction for use of goo.gl/xxxxx. In fact, Google discontinued the toolbar entirely. Goo.gl remains useful, and was joined by friends. For Google services, such as Google Maps, Product Forums and Books, there is g.co/xxxxx. For Google-owned YouTube, look for youtu.be/xxxxx.

* Disclaimer: This is considered “fair use” per Google copyright policy and Terms of Service. I checked.

Published in: on 29 September 2010 at 6:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am surprised that google would limit its shortening service. The amount of of information that could be gleaned from a url shortener of goo.gl’s scale would be significant.


    • Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your comment. Ironically, very shortly after I wrote my URL Tall Tales post, Google announced that it would offer the functionality you wondered about! I think it was sometime during the first week of October that goo.gl could be used to shorten any URL on the web, not merely Google product pages.

      I don’t know if the Google toolbar is still required to use goo.gl as in the past. I’m still using bit.ly myself.


  2. […] are very convenient. Twitter introduced its own shortening service in September. Facebook did too. Google already offered goo.gl, and recently expanded it for use on any domain, no longer confined to Google pages only. However, […]


  3. […] introduced its goog.gl URL shortening service in 2009 and upgraded it in October 2010.  Google first staked a claim in the Nigerian top-level […]


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