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URL shorteners reviewed

March 25, 2009 21 Comments

URL shorteners transform ugly, long URLs into short ones that you can email without fear of them breaking - or include in Twitter tweets without using up too many characters.

For instance, I've shortened the URL for http://www.malcolmcoles.co.uk/blog/external-links-9-stages-of-linking-out-denial/ to http://tinyurl.com/c8bp5d instead (25 characters instead of 92).

But which URL shortener service is best?

Use this URL shortener list to decide ... It shows sites I've observed to be popular on Twitter, ordered by the length of the URL generated. I reckon tr.im is the winner. Although they all seem fairly good.

URL
Shortener
URL length Tracking / stats Custom name option Post direct to Twitter
Tr.im 13+4=17 Yes Yes Yes
Is.gd 13+4=17 No No No
Ow.ly 13+4=17 No No No
Bit.ly 14+5=19 Yes Yes If you register
Xrl.us 14+5=19 Yes No No
Cli.gs 14+6=20 Yes If you register If you register
Short.to 16+4=20 No No No
Snurl.com 17+5=22 No Yes Yes
Twurl.nl 16+6=22 Yes No If you register
Tinyurl.com 19+6=25 No Yes No
Notlong.com 19+6=25 Yes Yes No

What the headings mean

  • URL length shows how many characters (including the http:// at the front) the shortened URL generated for this site's homepage was. The first figure is the base length (EG http://tr.im/ is 13 characters), the second number is the short code generated (this can vary from 4 to 6 characters at most services - popular services have used up all the 4-character ones already - so you might expect tr.im to change to 13+5 if this post is very popular!), and the final number is the total.
  • Tracking / statistics shows whether there you can see figures for how many people have clicked on your shortened URL (EG if you used it on Twitter). You have to register to get these figures.
  • Custom name - whether you can choose your own memorable short-code or not (rather than the random string of letters automatically generated).
  • Post direct to Twitter - can you post to Twitter from the website of the service? (Although they all have plugins or extensions to let you use their services direct from your browser whichever site you are on.)

Even shorter still?

There is also the tinyarro.ws services, mentioned in the comments below. It uses unicode characters to make URLs shorter still - it made my homepage into just 13 characters. Although you might want to read the comments here - does anyone have any experience of it ...?

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