The Problems of URL Shorteners

After my two recent articles, firstly about internet-protocols for desktop applications and how I feel they are breaking the web and my views on the recent re-insurgence of site-wrapping iframe behaviour seen in the newly released DiggBar and on Facebook, I wanted to discuss another issue I have with the web today; URL shorteners.

URL shorteners are a very simple system that take a normal URL and create a much shorter version of it. This is very handy for websites such as Twitter, where every character counts, but in most other situations they are totally unnecessary. Even in the situation of Twitter, they can be very annoying and help the spread of the internet phenomenon 'Rickrolling' (a meme involving the music video for the Rick Astley song "Never Gonna Give You Up".) as well as malicious attacks as the user is unaware of where the link will take them – this is my major problem with URL shorteners.

However, I have recently come across to really insightful articles. Danny Sullivan over at Search Engine Land has compiled some in-depth analysis of "Which URL Shortening Service Should You Use" and Joshua Schachter sums up my thoughts on URL Shorteners and the numerous problems these services cause. I recommend reading both these articles if you have found my previous two entries thoughtful in anyway.