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Solving the TinyUrl centralization problem

Saturday, March 07, 2009 by Dave Winer.

A picture named esther.jpgFollowing up on an earlier bit about centralizing and TinyUrl, this is one of those vexing problems that actually has a solution!  Permalink to this paragraph

Every web app that produces long urls should provide a built-in url-shortening facility. The user interface would be similar to the one in Google Maps they call "Link To This Page." You click on it, and up pops a box containing an address you can use to point to the page. Screen shotPermalink to this paragraph

But look at the size of the url that Google gives you. It should be short. Why not something like: http://goog.us/8uj9oj. Permalink to this paragraph

In other words, why doesn't Google have a built-in shortnener? Permalink to this paragraph

When blogging software gives you a permalink, it should be short. It's okay to make the user ask for one, why clog up the system with shortened urls no one uses. Permalink to this paragraph

Another key point, when they give you a shortened url, it should point back to the software that gave it to you, so the shortened link will be exactly as long-lived as the thing it's pointing to. In other words, the URL shortener wouldn't contribute any extra link rot, to use an old term coined (I believe) by Jakob Nielsen. Permalink to this paragraph

It's a mistake, in hindsight, for Twitter to give us TinyUrl urls, because the link depends on two companies and two servers. It would be better if it just depended on one, less likely to break. Permalink to this paragraph

Now that URL length has become an issue for users, it might be even better for designers to view URLs as part of site design. Look at the address for the page for the Wii at Amazon. Wouldn't it be easier to find if the address were: Permalink to this paragraph

http://amazon.com/wii  Permalink to this paragraph

Try clicking on it -- it actually works! ;-> Permalink to this paragraph

Why should a user ever see the longer crappy url? Permalink to this paragraph

In other words, url-shortening isn't just for Twitter users, it's for everyone. Maybe most people don't look at the urls, but some do, and maybe more would if they made more sense? Permalink to this paragraph

Note: This is a repeat of a piece I wrote in November 2007. Permalink to this paragraph


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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.


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