Shorten URLs, Grow Your Web Data With bit.ly


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New York-based Betaworks, which includes Dave Winer, the "father of RSS," has helped give birth to a new web tool, bit.ly, a URL shortener. It looks intriguing even if it might be difficult to put your finger on exactly why.

Winer writes about it, and the development team explains that it's a

a URL-shortener with lots of new stuff designed for an app developer who needs everything and more!

1. History and#8212; we remember the last 15 shortened URLs you've created. They're displayed on the home page next time you go back. Cookie-based.

2. Click/Referrer tracking and#8212; Every time someone clicks on a short URL we add 1 to the count of clicks for that page and for the referring page.

3. There's a simple API for creating short URLs from your web apps.

4. We automatically create three thumbnail images for each page you link through bit.ly, small, medium and large size. You can use these in presenting choices to your users.

5. We automatically mirror each page, never know when you might need a backup.

6. Most important for professional applications, you can access all the data about each page through a simple XML or JSON interface.

Giving bit.ly a try, it certainly looks like it's got potential. After entering in a long URL, bit.ly spits out a short version that can be used to link to a Web page; bit.ly then provides a separate page that shows URL information, including how many clicks to the page via the short URL, traffic sources, etc. No mess, no fuss. (On the first day, though, response time was just slow enough to notice when waiting for the shortened URL.)

Why the big deal about URL shorteners (including other sites like Tiny URL)? Short URLs are becoming a key to the growing communication in micro-blogs, SMS and other web-based communication. The bit.ly site is now working on advanced ways of providing short URLs, so developers can leverage data in ever-better ways, both for delivering content and analyzing traffic.

In short, tools like bit.ly are being positioned as another building block toward creation of a more efficient Web and better communication.

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