Reposted with permission from blog.texthelp.com
If you use Twitter, share digital resources often, or attend many conferences, you have probably used or created a shortened URL. While the purpose of shortening a URL may seem obvious (who can remember a link that is 100+ characters long?), how to create one, and which service to use can be a little more confusing.
In this post I will demystify URL shortening by sharing which services I use, when I use them, and discuss a few tips that you may not be aware of.
Depending on the situation, I currently use one of three URL shortening services. I’ve listed these below, along with a few details on each.
TinyURL is the first URL shortening site that I can remember using. I stumbled upon it when I moved my training evaluations online and needed a short memorable link that I could share with participants. One of my favorite features of TinyURL is the ability to create a custom URL instead of the random numbers and letters these services typically generate. I still use the service to this day when I need a custom shortened URL (i.e. tinyurl.com/MyLink instead of tinyurl.com/4E2tvyX1).
While similar to TinyURL, Bit.ly offers additional tracking features that I’ve come to rely on often. For example, it can track number of clicks and saves, allow me to make the link private, add notes and more. I also like Bit.ly because of its Chrome extension that I have added to my browser. It allows me to easily create and share a shortened URL from any site with the click of a button.
Even though I use both TinyURL and Bit.ly in certain situations, I’ve come to rely on Google’s URL shortening service as my site of choice when I need to shrink a link. There are several reasons for this including the depth of analytics that Google provides and the fact that it keeps a history of links I’ve shortened as part of my Google account. This means there’s no need to create another username/password to keep up with or share my account information with another service. Another plus is that Google’s URL shortener automatically creates a QR code with the link. To access, simply click on “details” in your history, or add the shortened link to your address bar and add a “.qr” to the end. Cool, huh? I’ve also recently installed a Chrome extension to shorten websites with one click, but will need to use it a bit more before I can say how it compares to Bit.ly.
Another consideration when using any URL shortener is the life of the link. While shortened links may not expire, they will only last as long as the service used to create them. So if you are using TinyURL to shorten links, and TinyURL decides to shut down, then your links are going to be shut down as well. This is another reason I like to use Google. I feel more comfortable with the longevity of Google compared to other sites. However, Google has been known to shut down services in the past (i.e. Google Reader), so there’s never a guarantee that any link shortened will be around forever.
So there are my top three URL shortening services along with some details on each. Please let me know of other services you use (and why) in the comments section below.