Why would anyone want to shorten a URL for hyperlinks when it is so easy to copy and paste URLs into documents and on-line fields? Think of short URLs as an alias or nickname for a longer URL. Both URLs go to the same website with the same speed, but one requires less characters so typing or copy/pasting requires less effort. ShortURL are helpful for updates on social network sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, where users are given a small number of characters to provide updates on what they are doing or are interested in. Most shorten URL tools are free and only require an account for additional data. ShortURLs can be used to promote a blog, send interesting on-line articles, and provide easy access to photos or videos on any website.
bit.ly is one of the best known URL shorten tool since it is what Twitter originally used to automatically shorten long hyperlinks and is the type of link created by “Add This” social buttons on blogs and article sites. Although Twitter no long automatically shortens links for users, bit-ly is still popular because it allows tracking statistics of their short link use. No matter which social network tool the link is used in, it will return the number of clicks for the link and display it on the computer where the link was originally made for a short time on a user without an account. Users who have set-up an account can get a longer-period history and see reports from any computer by logging into their account. To make a short link, simply enter the longer URL in the field marked and click the Shorten button. After the new link is displayed, move onto it and a copy to clipboard feature will appear to save a copy to be pasted into social network text fields. To learn more, a tour feature is available at the bottom of the bit.ly home page. The tour is a series of information pages on features to shorten, share, track, and manage links as well as advanced tools. All tour options display related screen captures.
Cli.gs creates very shortURLs that are used by a few blog feed applications to automate sending post updates to Twitter accounts. However, a blog is not required to use Cligs to create shortURLs without an account. Cligs also offers analytics and application programming interfaces (API) for users who set-up an account.
is.gd is good because it has a quick link compress tool without a lot of other options on the home page which may confuse new users. However, a neat feature of this shortURL service is the ability to copy its links and then place a dash (-) at the end of their shortURL to get preview information on the linked webpage before clicking to actually go to that site. This may prevent visiting sites that automatically start code, audio, or video on a site that is not desired. The description page for is.gd also gives a good list of options to consider for using short URLS. Go to the instructions page to find out how to use this tool in different platforms or the technical page for API details.
TinyURL.com is another popular shorten URL tool used across many social networks, although it refers to itself as an email tool. It allows custom URL creation as well as random links without an account. It currently does not provide any type of statistics on URL use, but check out the options it does provide on the home page.
TwitPwr.com is a popular shorten URL tool used in Tweets because it set-ups a user account based on a current Twitter name. Merely enter the long URL in the field and a Twitter name in the field and click Shorten. The short link will appear to copy/paste into Tweets. If a custom shortURL is desired, click on the advanced option to create it. The home page also displays the top Twitter accounts using the tool and the most clicked links on Twitter which may cut down on personal search time in Twitter. To see personal information for an account, click on the TwitPWR Profile Link to see last 20 tweets from Twitter or TwitPWR URL Info link to see a traffic report and link-backs to original long URL. Read the About page on TwitPwr for more information.
Other applications for making using the internet or social networks easier may include a shorten URL utility the user sets or is automatically created. Some to check out include HooteSuite (ow.ly), FriendFeed (ff.im), and StumbleUpon (su.pr ). Most will have the utility on the home page for logged in accounts. If not, check their Help, FAQ, or About option of the application to see if it includes this utility or recommends using another tool.
It is very likely that everyone on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter has seen short URLs in received updates and clicked on the link because it cam from a trusted source. Check out the shorten URL option that sounds best for networking or other linking needs and start using shorter URLs too! It may make socializing via the web so much easier.