Back in 2010 twitter was taking off, and there was a real art to constructing a witty informative tweet in 140 characters. Part of that art was using URL shorteners. I wrote about them.
Pretty soon after I wrote about them companies started using them automatically, and there were URL unpackers – so you could see what you were clicking on and avoid clicking on a dodgy link. So twitter used t.co as a URL domain root, making life on twitter easier.
Last year Twitter doubled it’s character limit, and excluded URLs and Hashtags from the count.
URL shorteners still exist but they seem quaint now, I haven’t used one in years. It seems funny to think of the effort that went into some of those early tweets.
So you’ve only got 140 characters to write wittily and get your point across AND you have to add a URL!? The simple answer is to use a URL shortener, but which one?
There are a lot to choose from, bit.ly, is.gd, tinyurl.com to name a few. Or perhaps you’d like to build your own as Coca Cola have done.
It needs to do more than give you short URLs, it needs to be fast and it needs to be reliable.
Now there’s a way to monitor which URL shortener is the most reliable thanks to Dutch company Watchmouse.
I use shorteners for posting on twitter, that last URL to lifehacker is 93 characters long, the one to Watchmouse’s blog is 111 characters, leave no room witty commentary in a twitter post. Is.gd took both to 18 characters leaving me 122 characters in a tweet.
However some people are bothered by shortened URL as you can’t see what the destination is and where the URL will take you. Which is smart security thinking. But there are tools for this as well, firefox offers several add-ons, but if you’re not on firefox or you’re behind a firewall that won’t allow you to install the add-on then there’s a site that will expand the URL, called “untiny.me”