It can seem to us that the internet is a limitless place, and in many ways it is. Organizations can always expand their servers to accommodate more traffic, or more content, of whatever it is that they feel they need more of. With space on Facebook, huge swaths of free room in email accounts and photo websites, and the coming age of completely free cloud storage from Apple, Google, and even Amazon, we can often forget that there are limits as to how much the internet, magical as it is, can handle.
Yet there are some tiny nooks and crannies around the web where space is at a premium, and there are times when being conservative with what you do online is necessary. For example, throwing a long URL into a Twitter or Facebook post can take up important space, forcing readers to look at unnecessarily long addresses and stealing precious characters you may not be able to afford. As such, using URL shorteners to condense obtrusively long addresses into smaller, more compact ones can allow you to use that space more intelligently.
There are many different URL shorteners out there, and understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each can help you choose particular tools for particular projects. This article considers a brief few and helps you distinguish between the advantages of each.
As always, Google has worked its way into the mix and offers a very simple URL shortener called goo.gl. It is absolutely bare-bones, and you certainly cannot get confused using its interface. Plug your long URL in the left and out pops a short one to the right. A history of the addresses you have shortened appears below the engine as you proceed.
Users may not be satisfied with the obscure, often unhelpful URLs such engines put out for us. After all, we are trying to change these addresses into little units that better suit our needs, so why shouldn’t we have some say in what they come out as? Enter doiop.com, a URL shortener that allows you to personalize the end of the URL for identification purposes. For example, if I want to point to a Ghacks article, I can include the term Ghacks in the URL.
Just like that, doiop.com/ghacks1 now points directly to an earlier post about face recognition software. This is one shortener that can be a big help if you want to leave viewers with a hint as to what is at the other end of the link.
Unfortunately, some of the URL shorteners that were most valuable to users have disappeared completely. DwarfURL was one such engine, which allowed you to keep stats on the links you created free of charge. There is one nifty little shortener that has stuck around - Memurl. This website allows you to plug in a long address and receive a short one, just like the others. Memurl, however, provides links that are easier to remember because they are mnemonic, making them easy to pronounce and easier to remember.
Other url shortening services offer similar options. Tinyurl for instance generates a random url by default, but offers options to pick a custom string instead for the shortened url. Several additional aspects are worth mentioning. Some services, like Tinyurl, offer preview pages for shortened urls which can be used to preview the page they link to.
Other services, like cli.gs offer statistics for the link creator. Stats usually require an account though, which some users might not want to create for that purpose. Lastly, some services like McAfee's url shortener offer security checks of landing pages. They will warn the user if a page has been detected as malicious or otherwise harmful.
There are many different ways to shorten URLs for many different purposes. Finding the right one for your needs is the tricky part.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.