Like it or not, Twitter is here to stay, but we’re sure you knew that from the moment Oprah tweeted her all caps and rather ungrammatical “HI TWITTERS” inaugural tweet. In any case, YouTube videos are becoming popular faster than ever and viral links are, well, going more viral than ever. Sure, you can attribute this to the fact that everyone and their grandma is on the interwebs these days, but there’s no denying that Twitter is now a huge driver of traffic on the web.
The problem? That pesky 140 character limit. The solution? Those pesky URL shorteners.
Why pesky? Think about it: the web is now scattered with obscure URLs that look like http://bit.ly/uCxFH, but there’s no discernable way to figure out what that link actually directs to without going through the link provider’s servers”"in this case bit.ly”"to get to the link destination.
Should those servers ever go under, then all those links distributed before will be dead, and every one of your old tweets about how this link was “LOL HILARIOUS!!1″ will become lost to time. Certainly annoying for you, but it’s a serious problem if you’re someone depending on that traffic to make money. Worse, the links could be hijacked by a spammer who buys the shortener and redirect to Viagra ads or malware infecting sites.
Could it ever happen? You betcha. Websites aren’t free after all, and especially because it’s so easy to develop URL shorteners, there are a plethora of them out there. ‚ In fact, shortener Tr.im has decided to shut down development. While they promise their links will continue to direct correctly through the end of the year, there’s no promises as to what will happen after.
There a couple solutions in the works. Bit.ly has offered to host Tr.im’s URL mappings, but there’s no guarantee Tr.im’s developers will take them up on the offer. Bit.ly’s investors have also started a foundation of sorts called 301works will wants to archive the URL mappings of all URL shorteners. While none of the other URL shorteners have jumped on the bandwagon, users may start to clamor for peace of mind.