With our love of condensing, speeding up and simplifying things, URL shorteners are now part of online mechanics and never more so than with social media sites such as Twitter. We’ve honed how we get our point across in 140 characters or less, and now, thanks to URL shorteners, we can add links into our conversations too.
The benefits of this link shortening is that it compresses and reduces, making sharing content easier. Gone are the lengthy titles which take up most of the characters, and in its place - space.
This leaves room for users to express their own opinion or take on articles, videos, images and everything else out there. It's also been argued that shortened URLs make an article more readable, simply because clunky wordy titles are replaced with a more succinct version of less than 20 characters.
But aside from the aesthetics and share factors, shortening services are also valuable tools. That's because some offer a built-in function to track and analyse who is sharing and reading content. Since sharing is the life blood of the internet, and more specifically social media, then for those who work in the industry, this helps with a necessary part of the job - monitoring.
However, link shortening does have its detractors. And those who have expressed concerns over the use of these services tend to talk about the trust element. This is a result of spamming coming from shortened links and, in the early years, this put people off using the tools. After all, if you can't see the URL, how do you know it's from a trustworthy source?
Now, thanks to the widespread use via the likes of Twitter, the reputation of shortening tools has changed.
Today's established URL shorteners offer a plethora of different tools. Most, however, are copies of the granddaddy of URL shorteners - TinyURL, which was launched back in 2002.
Now, though, the company faces stiff competition with newer and more advanced tools such those offered by bit.ly, formerly known as bit.ly. It's one of the most recognized thanks to the fact that it's integrated into several big third party tools such as Tweetdeck.
Currently, users of this particular service save about one hundred million links each day with the company reporting some three hundred million clicks on its links each day. And in the past few months, the company has added to its capabilities with an iPhone app and the new bookmarking feature called ‘bitmarks’.
But perhaps bit.ly will be watching its back, not least because of the big names that are joining the field. Take internet giant Google which for the past few years has had its own version called goo.gl. It features automatic spam detection and offers tracking info such as where your traffic is coming from and from which platforms. Then there's Twitter which, having previously used the likes of bitly and TinyURL, now has its own services called t.co. Only available to use on Twitter, it collects information on links such as how many times a link is clicked on.
And then there's the smaller firms who are also establishing their reputation in this field with British firm Memset being among them. It has set up two shortening tools – is.gd and v.gd – with the former, is.gd being ranked an impressive third overall by tech crunch back in 2009.