Twitter has just hit a crucial milestone for becoming a long-term viability rather than an Internet flash-in-the-plan: it has started generating its own sub-market.
Part of Twitter’s beauty is the fact that it restricts posts to 140 characters, forcing you to have to be economic with your words and making it easier to quickly digest others posts. The problem with the domain name system is that it produces long Web addresses (URLs) so if you want to point people to a certain webpage, you lose almost all the room you have just posting the URL, leaving little or no room for an explanation of why people should click on the link.
URL shortening applications have been around for years but they tended to be used only for ridiculously long web addresses that could often break in emails and IM messages. Twitter has given them a new lease of life.
And this was made clear this morning when the usual URL shortening site that I use – Tiny URL at http://www.tiny.cc – stopped working properly due to demand. The website wouldn’t load. More crucially someone Twittered me to tell me that an earlier link I had posted was now pointing somewhere completely different.
So I had a look about and found a new service: Trim, found at http://tr.im/. This has several advantages over Tiny URL. For one, it produces shorter URLs – the name of the game. But also it lets you lets you create an account, plus post directly into Twitter, and it provides stats on how many times the link has been clicked on.
Trim or Tweak?
Unbelievably, while I was testing out Trim, I received an email in my inbox which was a press release pointing to another URL shortening service that has just launched – TweaK, which announces itself as “a revolutionary new URL shortening service” and can be found at http://www.tweak.tk.
What’s interesting about this is that TweaK is working with the actual dot-tk registry and so uses new tk domains i.e. http://something.tk rather than http://url-service.xx/shorturl. The .tk registry is set aside for Tokelau – a tiny island north-east of Australia. ICANN redelegated .tk to the government of Tokelau in January 2006.
Anyway, TweaK appears to offer the same service as Trim – account, direct posting to Twitter etc. So I suppose the best test is how tiny can it make those URLs.
A URL shortening showdown
So let’s go:
Hang on – TweaK isn’t shortening the URL, it is trying to give me a free .tk domain address. Bit annoying. Maybe it needs a longer URL and not just a domain name. Let’s try:
TweaK wins by two characters.
Here a Google Maps link to where I am currently sitting: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=4676+Admiralty+Way,+ca,+90292&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=36.915634,90.615234&ie=UTF8&ll=33.980485,-118.440042&spn=0.009448,0.022123&t=h&z=16&iwloc=A
Yep, same result – 15 characters for TweaK, but 17 for Trim. That said, TweaK is a bit clunky at the moment. And slow. Trim definitely has usability. So, despite the extra two characters, I’m going with Trim for the moment.
Anyway, back to my initial point – if companies are building these sorts of services then I think Twitter is pretty much here to stay.