URL Shortening is BAD

By Xah Lee. Date:

Am really annoyed with URL shorterning.

In around 2000 it's to shortern really long URL with cgi-bin parameters, like this one:


, which often get cut into multiple lines in emails.

But those long URLs gradually went away. The web in general don't have URL with lots of “&a=b+c” etc parameters anymore. Lots of web server URL rewriting tech solved that problem. However, today in 2010 there's explosion of [ URL shortening ] [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/URL_shortening ] sites and increased use. (some blog reading indicates that there are few hundreds of such sites) At first i thought the increased use is due to a need. That is, mobile phone text messaging has a limitation on number of char per post, and [ Twitter ] [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter ] made the phone texting popular to the web intermixed with [ microblogging ] [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microblogging ] idea. But not really, because as Joshua Schachter pointed out, that phones today are powerful enough to browse the web, and if there is a text limitation problem, or texting protocol, there are lots of ways to get around it. There's no reason for internet to start to use URL shortening like a wild fire. People are not just shorterning long URLs. But a perfectly fine URL also gets encrypted thru some URL shortening systematically by many web services.

I think it more has to do with marketing/SEO. That is, when a popular website (such as Twitter or Facebook) uses URL shortening, it can know when people clicked a link. So it has vital statistical data for various commercial uses, such as in advertising, marketing trend, etc. [ Joshua Schachter ] [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joshua_Schachter ]'s (creator of delicious.com) article explains this well:

Am surprised that recently Google brought about its own URL shorterning service, and isn't shy about publicity. See this Google engineer lead Matt Cutts 's blog.

I can see it is good for google, naturally, and have no objections. But can't see it as good for the whole. Google always picture itself as the good guy. They providing their own shortening service is certainly beneficial to them, since they get more juicy data about link activities, and has the potential to wipe out all others. But what's their justification in bringing out this service for public good?

The web speed, bandwidth, tech, etc are just growing and growing. Char limitation is something that is going away. URL shortening seems just to increase complexity artificially.

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