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The hubbub around URL shorteners

Sameer Vasta's picture

I never thought I'd say this with a straight face, but URL shorteners are now the topic du jour.

For those of you that have no idea what I'm talking about, a definition, from Wikipedia:

URL shortening is a technique on the World Wide Web where a provider makes a web page available under a very short URL in addition to the original address.

You've all seen the tinyurl.com addresses before, or the bit.ly addresses we use on the World Bank News Twitter stream, so URL shortening isn't anything new. What is new is the increasing attention being placed on these shorteners and their advantages and disadvantages.

An example of bit.ly use on the World Bank News Twitter stream

Earlier this year, Joshua Schachter wrote an excellent piece citing some of the latent issues with URL shorteners, including adding levels of redirection and the possibility of link rot. The piece set off a good discussion on the value of shortening tools and best practices around URL shortening in general.

The conversation revved up recently when Google and Facebook announced their own forays into URL shortening, and bit.ly announced a new pro feature set, currently in beta, being used by organizations like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

All that context to say: is it time for the World Bank to invest in its own URL shortener?

With increased use of tools like Twitter at the Bank, the need for short, easy URLs is growing. How to approach fulfilling that need?

  • Do we explore options like bit.ly pro and leverage their already rich suite of statistics and monitoring tools?
  • Do we build our own shortener so that we don't run the risk of link rot if anything should happen to bit.ly?
  • What domain should we use/acquire that is short enough but yet memorable?
  • Finally, is this something we should even be looking at here at the Web Program Office?

 
Just a few things running through my head these past few weeks. Would appreciate any feedback you may have.