Tuesday, February 15, 2011

LOVE fest Day nine: bitly

I have to be honest: I saw url shorteners on the web, but I didn't understand why anyone would use them.

Then I heard a segment of Ira Flatow's Science Friday on NPR (nerd alert), and it really piqued my interest.

My url shortener of choice is bit.ly

In a nutshell, this is what they do. If you go to copy a link from the web and (we've all been there) it's 465 characters long, you can enter it in bit.ly and get a petite, crisp little link to post.

For example. I recently googled incinerators in Ct for a project I'm working on with a student, getting this link:


So, I bit.ly'd it, to get this link:


So, why in the world would anyone want to do this? I know why I want to do it. It's clean and concise. It satisfies my aesthetic desire to neaten everything up.

I catch myself formatting and re-formatting my to-do list because I want the fonts, etc to be more uniform.

...soooo I can admit I may not be normal in this regard.

Do you bit.ly? 
Do you want to? 
Do you think it seems silly?
Does it sound useful?

FYI, here's a blog teaser for Ira Flatow's story. The story link can be found here.

The promos hint that the show will be about "uncovering" the hidden agendas of url shorteners, but really, it didn't play out like that. Instead, Ira was kind of gushing over Hilary Mason, the lead bit.ly scientist.
He talked about the fact that when one uses an url shortener, the site owner can then use that information to track you, theoretically building a composite of "who you are" and "what you like" online.
I don't know why this doesn't bother me. It's possible to turn off the tracking mechanism on your bit.ly account. I didn't even bother, though. I feel like CVS tracks my purchases through my discount card, as does Stop N Shop. Netflix knows not only the films I've seen, but also the ones I'd like to see in the future. It's all connected to my debit card, and my identity in countless ways.

In this way, it doesn't feel like much of an infringement of privacy.

Trivia: the .ly is from when they first designed the web and thought all countries would have their own web suffix. This was the suffix for Libya. The creators of the site are not Libyans, they just thought it would be cool to use it.

What do you think?


  1. I remember seeing those shortened links on Twitter and I was like: what in the world? But then I tried it out and I love it. I used to be a fan of bit.ly but it recently started acting weird for me. Tinyurl is my link of choice now. :)

    You've changed my twitter life!

  3. I love bit.ly and I love the fact about where the .ly came from. I was wondering that actually!

  4. The shortened URLs are great for Twitter where every character counts, but I don't like that you can't see where you're headed right away. I figured out that if I hover my cursor over the shortened URL, the longer destination address shows up. It still makes me feel unsettled--but then I'm already paranoid.

  5. I've been using Google's url shortener just because it's easier to get to. lol I really only learned about it for my Twitter use.

  6. I've used tinyurl for twitter, but I don't tweet very often anyway.

    That's really interesting about the .ly suffix.

    And also fascinating that the fact that they're tracking you doesn't bother you in the least! I resisted getting a supermarket card and a CVS card for the longest time, just because of that privacy issue. Finally caved a few years ago. Gmail tracks your info too. So if you can't beat 'em, you join 'em, right?

  7. I don't tweet, so I didn't even realize that this would apply. Now it makes even MORE sense.

    Pam, I think tinyurl and bitly are the two biggest contenders.

    yay Erinn, very cool!

    Alicia- Cool, huh?

    That is really good to know Angelica- I agree, I don't like to click and not know where I'm going.

    Holly, I didn't even realize google had one. I will check it out.

    Joanne- it probably should bother me a lot. I am not fully comfortable with it (it reminds me too much of the novel The Feed), but I guess I think it's inevitable.

  8. I love bit.ly, and I agree, it's incredibly handy for Twitter in terms of keeping things short and sweet. (Sorry I'm so hopelessly absent right now, holiday's keeping me busy.)

  9. This is funny--I've actually wondered how to do this! I saw you on Nicole's blogfest and have enjoyed looking around your blog. I also like your obsession with insects. ;)

    ~Carla @ carla-jansen.blogspot.com

  10. I think it's a very useful service, especially in you're using Twitter.


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