Google recently rolled out a service called goo.gl, which will compete with the current leading web address shortening system, bit.ly. The use of web address shortening systems has skyrocketed as the use of micro-blogging sites, such as Twitter, has also rapidly increased. Micro-blogging sites limit the number of characters that can be posted in a message (140 for Twitter), and so it is often necessary to shorten a web address in these messages. Shortening services solve this problem by creating a short unique link to their page, which then redirects readers to the actual website.
The widespread use of these shortening systems has allowed them to offer another valuable service to users, website visitor analytic data. Much of the success of bit.ly has come from the fact that they offer real-time information about who is visiting websites across the web. Further, they have opened their system, so that users can access the real-time web traffic data for their own programs. A last advantage of the system is that bit.ly keeps track of users’ shortened urls, which allows users to look-up their previously shared links.
However, not everything is perfect for users of these systems. Unfortunately, readers can not see the real destination web address when clicking on a shortened link. This means that users can misdirect readers to sites that they were not intending to visit. While this has not been enough of a problem to slow growth of these services yet, as the services become more mainstream, malicious use may increase, and people may become more hesitant to click on shortened links.
Bit.ly received 2 million dollars in financing earlier this year, and there is potential for them to make money from their services. They have already announced that they will release a “pro” version that will include better analytic data. They could also possibly charge businesses for custom URL shortening. Further, there are rumors that they may be acquired by Twitter. However, in this unsettled new market, bit.ly’s primary concern right now is likely maintaining their user share as one the biggest possibly competitors, Google, enters their market.