Google URL Shortener, Do We Really Need It?

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 1, 2010
Updated • Dec 11, 2012

On the Internet, when something makes click and becomes very popular overnight, it takes usually less than a month before similar services are offered to the public, often with a similar or slightly modified feature set.

URL shorteners, those services that turn long urls into short ones, are very popular on today's Internet. Why? I have no idea to be honest. I can see their use in some situations, when text space is limited, or when it is difficulty to type (on a mobile phone for instance), but it ends there. Yes, I may be old fashioned about that, but I cannot see another reason for using an url shortening service, unless you are an Internet Marketers or curious user, and want to know who clicks on the links (that's because some of the services offer traffic statistics for registered users).

Now, Google has developed their own url shortener and made it public on the domain Users who visit the website see a simply form on top that allows the visitor to shorten any url entered into the form.

google url shortener
google url shortener

The resulting shortened url is displayed right on the same page, probably making use of Ajax to do that. for instance was turned into by the service. As usual, Google account owners who sign in get more options features than users who are not.

Signed in users can for instance build a list of urls that they have shortened. This acts as a reminder or archive for the user, but also as a hub to view traffic statistics of any url in the list. url shortener url shortener

Webmasters with a Feedburner account may be in for a surprise, as Google is apparently turning Feedburner urls automatically into urls. All the latest posts of the websites that use Feedburner are displayed in the listing.

A click on Details displays basic statistics, including from which countries the users came that clicked on the link, and which operating system and web browser they have been using.

url shortener
url shortener

While that sounds nice, is it enough for users to switch from another service such as to Google's name will probably attract some users, but I cannot see the majority of users switching to, unless they manage to cooperate with a large popular service.

So, who needs I leave that as an open question, feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.


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  1. SamEOS said on April 14, 2015 at 6:22 am

    I just want to show up original URL at the end post, because of impress customer by domain name, not short.url. THis mean nothing and no sense with almost customer, who don’t understand about URL mean. Just give us a a choice, use it or not.

  2. Thomas said on February 7, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    slightly off-topic, but why is “http://” required? I know it is the scheme/protocol, but won’t a URL work either with or without it?


    1. Martin said on February 7, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      The browsers assume that the user wants to use the http protocol when entering something like into the browser. But it is theoretically possible to use other protocols with the url, ftp or https for instance.

  3. myT said on October 8, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    I think a big advantage to use could be it’s speed and uptime and the fact that so many people already have a google account thus easier integration and no extra account to be set up…
    Watchmouse made some nice overview of speed and uptime of different services (before was available to the public): ang came out best back then…

  4. Mario García said on October 7, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Other than Twitter, I have personally never needed to use URL shorteners. Sometimes, I have seen it used on podcasts, where the authors want to share a URL by speaking it out. It is certainly easier to remember a short URL you heard than a long one.

  5. Hotrao said on October 2, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    I think is a good service and I understand the option of make it available through a dedicated site. On the other side, I don’t think will be a remarkable service from Google (Maybe I don’t catch where is the innovation,while I understand where is a differentiator).

  6. MKR said on October 1, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    I post a lot of links on twitter, so a URL shortener is essential to me. All the others I’ve tried had cluttered interfaces. I like the simplicity of this one. :)

  7. Ralph said on October 1, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I don’t understand the point of URL shorteners. If the URL is too long, why not just use the IP address?

    1. Helmut Lanker said on October 1, 2010 at 11:04 pm
  8. Peter Huesken said on October 1, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    I think this shortener is usefull for Google services like maps (that makes use of it now).
    For other uses I can´t see why we should use above (or

  9. Transcontinental said on October 1, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Tweeters were the first concerned by url shorters I think. If shortening has a meaning, a sens, when it is indeed a time and space server with long, veeeery long urls, as well it is as dull as a dandy fashion otherwise.
    I’ve always used TinyUrl, when applicable. I couldn’t agree more with the fact that, as Martin points out, success (I’d add not only on the Internet) is the source of copy, and hasn’t here innovated much.
    In practice, being very fond of maps and these often referenced to on the Internet with very long urls, shorters here in particular are much appreciated. I may state also that I appreciate using url shorters that call the shorter site for information and confirmation of url address (url preview).

  10. Larry said on October 1, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    The first place I saw this pop up was in google maps and I thought it was pretty useful there. Those urls can look horrible to put in email and break if the reader inserts line breaks. All of the tracking features and the like I could do without.

  11. Thomas said on October 1, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Yeah I suppose URL shorteners are for the horde of ego centric Twitter users

  12. Anonymous said on October 1, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Url shorters are became populare because of twitter, that’s it.

  13. Sujit said on October 1, 2010 at 11:37 am

    I must say I have the same opinion about URL shorter as you do. There is situation where you have use for it, BUT it is too popular for it usefulness.

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