Bitly Launches APIs to Track What’s Being Read on Social Networks

By Cameron Scott 

Bitly launched a trio of social data APIs (application programming interfaces) today that will allow their users to track which links being shared socially are garnering the most clicks.

Bitly is best known as a link shortening service, accounting for almost 8.5 billion shortened links. But because links are most often shortened to be shared, whether by email or on a social network, the company has insight into how social referrals work.

The three APIs the company launched today will allow developers to tap into those insights for use in their apps. The first provides developers with metadata including the topic, search keywords and language, that correlates to a particular URL. The second finds topics which are, at the moment of the search, receiving more attention than they normally do. The tool relies on words in the URLs being shared through Bitly.

“Generating this kind of metadata is difficult problem faced by anyone who wants to build an application on links. We’ve solved it, now there’s no need for you to!” the company said in a blog post.

The third API released today offers real-time search that supports queries by topic, domain and user location. For instance, the API would allow a user to find out what content about food is currently trending in Brooklyn. Or, the New York Times could use the search function to see which of its articles are being read most through social referrals at that moment.

While other social trend trackers, including Twitter trends and the New York Times’s “most shared” list, monitor which links are most shared, Bitly has somewhat unique access to which of its links garner most clicks, explained Hilary Mason, the company’s chief scientist. Bitly’s links are also used across multiple social networks, so it can watch trends across platforms.

Bitly hopes the release will spur people to build interesting social apps, Mason said.

“We think, perhaps naively, that that’s good for Bitly. We want to be the glue that holds those things together,” she said.

The APIs are free for up to a few hundred calls per hour. But they also serve as a kind of teaser demo for the enterprise social analytics dashboard which is Bitly’s major source revenue, Mason said.

Third-party developers have been testing the APIs, Mason said, but haven’t built anything ready for release yet.