A Proposal for Shorter Google Maps URLs

I was adding a link to a Google map into my iCal and noticed Google is encouraging me to share the the map URLs in email and IM.

google_share_map_url

But there’s a problem with the Google Maps URLs.

They’re +/- 155 characters.

Here’s the full URL:
http://maps.google.com/maps?oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&q=the+red+pepper,+plymouth,+mn&fb=1&split=1&gl=us&cid=1854680882426337660&li=lmd&z=14&iwloc=A

This URL is neither short, nor easily memorable, nor easily guessable. Which means it’s a completely un-usable – and barely shareable URL. Plus, something tells me this breaks both email and Twitter’s box.

CampaignMonitor says we don’t even get to the geocode.
google_map_url_campaignmonitor

Really Google!?

Even something like this is more share-able (in that it’s short).
http://maps.google.com/1854680882426337660

For the exact same character count, we can make it more guessable and more memorable (therefore more usable).
http://maps.google.com/RedPepperPlymouthMN

Yes, this is the exact same complaint Dave Winer had 5 weeks ago in Solving the TinyUrl centralization problem. Hell, if I’m only 5 weeks behind Winer, I’m cool with that.

Short URLs Re-defining SEO

It’s conventional search engine optimization wisdom that URLs should contain words, separated by either dashes or underscores. This approach improves the readability of the URL – making it more usable for people while simultaneously giving internet robots something to work on.

But with people sharing URLs within places – like Twitter and Facebook (and … and … and …) – places with a default social context, we’re seeing a URL’s context trump its readability as a significant usability factor.

Who is sharing and how they describe what they’re sharing is more important than the readability of the shared URL itself.

Leaving the search engine robots blocked out completely (disallow, nofollow, etc) or piecing together a pile of redirect URLs (which may or may not exist tomorrow, e.g. RE07.US).

Additionally, the share-er’s pays for each URL with their social capital. ‘Good’ URLs (as deemed by each individual follower) raise the share-er’s capital while ‘bad’ URLs lowers.

Throw in the proliferation of other difficult to index assets like images and video – and we’re talking about an internet that’s not Search Engine Optimized, but Social Engagement Optimized.

WordPress URL Shortening Hack

My last post, Publishers Shorten Yourself, got me thinking about easy, low-tech ways to provide a short url for WordPress blogs.

Turns out, just 1 line of code is needed in the .htaccess file.
RewriteRule ^(d+)$ http://[YOUR-BLOG-URL]/?p=$1

Add it in just after RewriteBase so your .htaccess looks something like this:

# BEGIN WordPress
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^(d+)$ http://[YOUR-BLOG-URL]/?p=$1
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
</IfModule>
# END WordPress

To use this short URL in your templates do one of the following:

If you want to use the same domain your blog is on, use this:

<a href="<?php echo get_option('home'); ?>/<?php the_ID(); ?>"><?php echo get_option('home'); ?>/<?php the_ID(); ?></a>

If you have a different, perhaps shorter domain, use this:

<a href="[SHORT-DOMAIN]/<?php the_ID(); ?>">[SHORT-DOMAIN]/<?php the_ID(); ?></a>

Note: You will have to add an additional redirect to the .htaccess file of SHORT-DOMAIN, but that’s not problem, because it’s very similar to the WordPress redirect we started with.

And like that you’ve got a short url, for every post in your WordPress blog. No more worries about whether or not a specific URL shortener will be stealing your referrers or even be around tomorrow.

Publishers Shorten Yourself

The Wege pointed me to an excellent article by Joshua Schachter on the issues w/ URL shortening services.

It’s consistent my concerns and my Insecurity of Short URLs post.

As I alluded to that post, I see 3 opportunities for URL shorteners, all of them revolve around increasing trust (branding, security, backup).

Let’s take that first one – branding. Another name for branding is accountability. Who really knows where a tinyurl a similar service will point you, but you can be confident a minnpo.st URL will point you to an article on minnpost.com and a grv.me URL will point you to something I authored.

From my perspective there are 3 parties that should have a good short URL corresponding to their identity:

  • the author (i.e. grv.me)
  • the publisher (i.e. minnpo.st)
  • the share-er (imagine a link blog of short urls)

Sometimes all 3 are the same.

Conveniently, as greater accountability is introduced to short URLs, the issues of security and backups address themselves.

Now.

Take one step back.

Web publishing engines – like WordPress, MovableType, and all publications engines really – should automatically generate nice long human-readable URLs as well as a short, easy-to-share URLs (at least the URL keys, you can supply your own short domain if you want). (Dave Winer said this last month in “Solving the TinyUrl centralization problemsomething along these lines a few weeks back, but I can find the link right now)

One more step back, and you can see this is only an issue now because of the growing popularity of 1 specific website and an expectation that these short URLs are permalinks. If you don’t have that expectation, shorten with RE07.US

RE07.US Update: Expiring URL & Widgets

RE07.US continues to make me smile. Last night’s update added a couple neat things;

  • URLs now auto-expire after 5 minutes, yes, there’s also a timer.
  • Usage data; referer, user agent, etc is now being captured.
  • and finally, I’m testing out the RE07.US javascript widget for displaying the RE07.US link on your blog.

I’ve got some ideas on where this technology could be useful, if you do as well, leave a comment.

Introducing: RE07.US – The Greenest URL Shortener

re07

According to a recent post by FuelInteractive.com, a link in Twitter is clicked for 5 minutes, then completely ignored.

That got me thinking about all the wasted short urls out there. So many tinyurl, culld.us, is.gd, et al, links just collecting dust after all that initial clicking.

Seems so wasteful considering “the current economic climate”. Maybe, we don’t need all those URLs. Maybe we should tighten our belts and limit ourselves to 1 short url – and continually reuse it.

With that in mind, I built HTTP://RE07.US. It’s 1 short url that we can all share.

All long URLs get shortened to the same link: RE07.US. And, it will be shortened to that – until someone else shortens their long URL to RE07.US. And so on and so on.

REDUCE. REDIRECT. RECYCLE.