Content on the Web has always been (relatively) easy to share. If you find something you think worth sharing, you often need do no more than copy the contents of the address bar in your browser (the place where the URL goes and where you see “http://www…”) and paste it in an email or text message.
With the explosion of content and the use of dynamically generated web pages, the URL may get longer and longer. The length can crowd or even exceed the maximum length of a Tweet or text message and be cumbersome to deal with in the body of an email message.
The problem is common enough to have a number of solutions under the category of “URL shorteners” (which might use some shortening of its own). Common solutions include doiop.com, tinyurl.com tr.im, om.ly, memurl.com. and bit.ly. They are all free web based services.
For example, the rather ungainly URL
can be shortened to http://bit.ly/3g1MUk by visiting one of these web sites, in this case bit.ly, pasting the long URL into a window and clicking the shorten button. The new short URL takes you to the same page as the long one.
All of the services shorten URLs as claimed, but have other differences. These can be decisive.
In my work, I tend to use bit.ly. I prefer it because of the perspective it gives on what happens to your shortened URLs. As a marketer, I want to know what happens when we send messages with these URLs. Bit.ly makes it easy to see how many clicks a short URL received as well as how many conversations in Twitter and FriendFeed refer to it.
Bit.ly can also search Twitter for tweets containing a desired search topic and a bit.ly link. Bit.ly search is interesting in that it reveals both the number of clicks your shortened URL received as well as the total number of clicks generated by other shortened URLs to the original URL. Thus you get a measure of popularity and your share of voice.
So, even if less picturesque, bit.ly is better than a message in a bottle.