Twitter and the short URL conundrum

Published on the 14th October, 2009

Although the spam seems to be dying down a little on Twitter since they introduced their 'report as spam' option I'm still a little cautious about clicking some shortened URLs - SO many of the links seem to lead to spam (spam and more spam). The whole concept seems to have gone full circle as well with people using extensions like Long URL Please to make the short URL long again. Although I think this is a good a useful add-on, the whole process seems a little excessive. I can see benefit in using shortened URLs in printed media but, when it comes to the web, why are we making links short just to make them long again? I guess Twitter has a big part to play in this by restricting messages to only 140 characters, but surely there's got to be a better way?! With this in mind, I've been trying to get some perspective on the issues. Shortened URLs:

  • You can't see where the link is going to take you (without a plugin)
  • Because most are obscure, they are difficult to remember
  • Multiple links may be created to the same resource
  • Added overheads in the redirection process
  • People can track who has visited the link
  • Spam links look the same as legitimate links

With this in mind

Maybe Twitter could implement a better way for sharing links without using shortened URLs. If links could be 'attached' to tweets and replaced with a token in your message then it would be like wrapping an HTML 'a' tag around some text. You would be able to see where the link is taking you and the message is still short (or even shorter, as there is no more http://).

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