Friday, 16 April 2010

URL Shorteners Are So Last Year

URL shorteners were all the rage in 2008 and 2009 – primarily due to the character constraints within the short messages service that was all the rage in 2008 and 2009 – Twitter.

URL shorteners take a long url, for example, this Google Map url:,+plymouth,+mn&fb=1&split=1&gl=us&cid=1854680882426337660&li=lmd&z=14&iwloc=A

and transform it into something like:

Every URL shortener uses their own magic sauce to create the short random string - i.e. the 'y3lxdru' part - and stores right next to the long URL. So if there's a or a - they probably don't point to the same Google Map. In fact, if I understand how (aka works - their shortened URLs only exist for a few months - and then are 'released' (that's how they're able to keep them short). I even created a automatically expiring URL shortener cause I thought it was funny.

When someone clicks on the short URL, the URL shortener ( in the example above) promises to look up the long URL stored next to the short random string - and promptly redirect you to the location of that Chinese restaurant for your lunch meeting. And not some place unseemly - which has happened, more than once.

There are lots of problems with URL shorteners. I feel qualified to say this because I build 3 of them in the past 2 years (, RE07.US, and a native WordPress hack, none of which are currently active).

At best - they make less usable URLs - because both the URLs shorteners domain name and the random string are meaningless (not to mention hard to remember) to people.

At worst - this obfuscation means every short URL clicked is more of a potential computer security risk than normal clicking around the internet.

A 3rd party URL shortener shouldn't be necessary to make Google's Map URLs shareable. Same goes for any other website - URLs can and should be constructed to be reasonably short, human readable, guessable, and accountable. URL design is one of the most under-appreciated aspects of website usability (as is scrolling).

"URL shorteners are cheap hacks apologizing for poor content-management-systems"

For the past 6 months or so - Twitter has been the only real reason to use a URL shortener. Facebook and other services are now doing a better job of handling long URLs. Many people and companies use URL shorteners as hack for not having a good web site statistics package. Additionally, Twitter has made noises like they're going to default to their own URL shortener in the near future - a move which will promptly shorten the already tiny lifespan of other URL shortening services.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Find ‘Twitter’, Replace with ‘Second Life’


In the past week both Apple and Twitter have carpet bombed on their respective development communities. As I’ve written about previously – I’ve been off Twitter now for nearly 2 months.

This week an interesting switch flipped in my head.

When I hear ‘Twitter’, my head replaces it with another corporate site I have little presence within. Most often it’s ‘World of Warcraft’ or ‘Second Life’. Sometimes it’s ‘MySpace’.

It gives whatever statement a quaint, historical tint to it. Rather than the blanket of pretension I’ve been feeling lately.


“Twitter vs Facebook battle he alludes to is already over, and Facebook wins….There’s just more value in being able to share anything.” – Fred Oliveira

“When [Twitter’s] conversion to OAuth is complete they will be in a position to instantly block any application they don’t like, which they have already started doing. “-Eric Woodward

Sing it with me, “Copying is not theft”

‘Copying Is Not Theft’ released by

Download your copy from

I see copyright (ownership) & licensing (usage) as 2 separate issues and think a we’d all be better off if more things were placed under the Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Considering His Lyrics

For decades, I’ve been a fan of Tim Quirk’s lyrics. He has a way of expressing the melancholy of defeat with cutting brevity and a touch of wordplay.

‘Topless at the Arco Arena’ rolled through the iTunes this afternoon and I stopped to savor these three lines:

Some rise by sin,
Some by virtue fall,
We’re not getting anywhere at all.
– Wonderlicks’ ‘The CEO Considers His Holdings’

If you’d like to give it a listen, it’s the 12th song down in the little player. Along the way, I highly recommend ‘All Boys Want’, ‘Fear of Chicago’, ‘The King of Bad Decisions’, and ‘Everybody Loves Jenny’.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Safari is Apple’s Middleware

“And, obviously, such a meta-platform would be out of Apple’s control. Consider a world where some other company’s cross-platform toolkit proved wildly popular. Then Apple releases major new features to iPhone OS, and that other company’s toolkit is slow to adopt them.” – John Gruber

Substitute “toolkit” for “website”. Now, remember when Jobs proudly announced:

“you can write great apps for the iPhone: they’re called ‘web sites’”

Giles Bowkett sums the situation up nicely:

“Geeks control the Internet because geeks built the Internet. We earned the freedom we have here. We earned it by creating something incredibly valuable and sharing it with millions and millions of people. What did we earn with the App Store? Did we build the App Store? Did we write iPhone OS? Did we design the groundbreaking hardware? Or are we just customers?…If geeks want the power to make any kind of decision in this situation, they need to get off their lazy asses and stop imagining that the world owes them a favor” – Giles Bowkett

How do I make a contribution to the U.S. government?

“Citizens who wish to make a general donation to the U.S. government may send contributions to a specific account called ‘Gifts to the United States.’ This account was established in 1843 to accept gifts, such as bequests, from individuals wishing to express their patriotism to the United States. Money deposited into this account is for general use by the federal government and can be available for budget needs. These contributions are considered an unconditional gift to the government. Financial gifts can be made by check or money order payable to the United States Treasury and mailed to the address below.”

Thanks to Mark Perry for the pointer.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010