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.

trim_is_done

Message on Tr.im's homepage.

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.

About The Author

Michael Kaufmann, lover of all things science and gadget, is a contributing editor at Blast. He can be reached at [email protected]

One Response

  1. Lucas

    Isn’t the whole point of Twitter up to the minute information? I’m pretty sure that just about all tweets end up ‘lost to time’ for all practical purposes.

    Who’s looking to make money off of OLD tweets? Anyone depending on others old tweets for their business has a terrible business.

    I get that this is a new way for the internet to end up with broken or annoying links. The internet is already full of old, broken, and annoying links. This is a slight modification on a mild nuisance that already exists. Any time anyone on the web goes under there’s a change their domain could get bought up by people slinging Viagra. Then boom, all the old links point to viagra.

    These things are quick tools to make something short to put it in a quick post. I’ve never seen them used for anything but Twitter, a system where posts are ancient within 24 hours. The loss of a provider causes a consolidation of some possibly broken URL links, that people will almost surely not give a crap about by the next time they check their Twitter inbox.

    I’d bet money that hardly any users let this affect their peace of mind.

    People store their financial information and all of their emails online all the time and you’re going to call someone who shortens a URL ‘irresponsible’?

    Reply

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