to be shut down

To emphasize my demurs against URL shortening services which I have mentioned before, here comes the prove that my thesis is correct: the URL shortening service is going to be shut down by end of this year. As Robert Scoble put it, this is a “shortcoming” of the Twitter platform, where the shutdown most likely will be felt most.

This is the first time I am aware of actual knowledge/data-loss which will occur due to the shutdown of such a service.

Update: announced that they will stay in business, due to an overwhelming response. But still, the final shutdown of such a service sooner or latter can and will happen. And even worse would be the continuation of such a service where all the URLs would be redirected somewhere else…

URL shortening services soon to be under siege?

I have already written about my opinion about the problems of URL shortening back in 2005. Yesterday, Jeff Atwood pointed out other issues like commercialization. Today, another threat has come true: hackers have manipulated the URLs of shortening service

Given the huge amount of information hidden behind such shortened URLs, and given the popularity and number of these links, especially nowadays on Twitter, these services could see themselves being under permanent siege of hackers/crackers. Being able to manipulate hundred of thousands if not even more vastly distributed and popular URLs to point to a given site could be used for both, generating (lots of?) ad-revenue, or as a new form of DDoS-attack.

At the moment there seems to be no way around using these services (especially with services like Twitter), but in the medium/long run a solution has to be found if we don’t want to lose lots of valuable information.

Short URLs: Future Loss of Knowlege

Short URLs, as provided for instance by or MakeAShorterLink, are now commonly used when posting to newsgroups or mailinglists. These links are primarily used to get rid of the problem of wrapped URLs in many NNTP/Mail-Clients as well as to make the posts more readable.

Unfortunately, these links also provide a problem regarding future retrieval of information. Often, the short URLs are only valid for a certain amount of time, afterwards they cannot be resolved anymore. When searching newsgroups on the hunt of a problem, I sometimes come accross such invalid links. Nothing angers me more than when reading “just see for the solution” and having no possibility to retrieve the information.

tinyurl promises on its front-page to create an URL that […] will not break in email postings and never expires. Quite some challanging promise, isn’t it? is more conservative in their promise, they only tell that it is going to last a very long time.

I do not want to say that these services are not senseful, on the contrarary, there are many cases where they are senseful. Long links in mails, postings, and instant messages are quite a pain sometimes, but the problem, especially in support forums and newsgroups is, that in my opinion the chances are higher that the short URL service will discontinue than that all archived postings will expire.

Of course, one could argue that the chances are as well that the real URL hidden by the short URL is not valid any more. This will also result in loss of information, without any doubt. If such a commonly used service is discontinued, a lot of URLs become invalid at once where the hidden URL is lost forever while the service behind it might still be available.

There is another point about the short URLs as well: I usually want to know where I am going before clicking a link. That’s also impossible with short URLs.

So, what to do about it? In my opinion, whoever wants to should continue using the services; I sometimes use them as well. But one should also add the long URLs at least to the end of an e-mail or a posting. They might be unclickable due to line breaks, but in case the short URL expires, it is still possible to reconstruct the link by hand.