9 Powerful URL Shorteners

urlURL shorteners have become ubiquitous on the web with the meteoric rise of Twitter, which constrains users to 140 characters. While URL shorteners are not new (TinyURL has been around since 2002), their use and proliferation has exploded. There are tons of them and they all do essentially the same thing: take a big, ugly URL that is 20-200 characters long and transform it into a more tweetable 15-20 characters long URL that redirects to the destination site. Many shorteners offer other features as well like click monitoring, geographic locating, link previews and more.
Many of the web’s most knowledgeable folk lament the rise of URL shorteners. They confuse viewers by not allowing the viewer to see the full address, thus rendering them unable to tell if they will end up at a useful site or a spam/porn site.

It also puts the long-term health of the internet itself in danger. The internet relies on an ever expanding web of interlocking links that lead people to sites they want to see. If any of the URL shorteners go under (as most surely will), the links will be broken and large chunks of the internet will have dead links that lead to dead ends and “Page Not Found” errors.

Link shorteners are prime targets for hackers, so through no fault of your own you might find the vacation photo album you linked to three months ago now pointing to a shady online “pharmacy”.

Efforts have been made to backup the shortened links and their destinations, and hopefully these will protect the integrity and efficiency of the web. You can protect your shortened link archive by using a service that has a large user base with a robust operation.

Here’s a look at some of the best:

Bit.ly: My favorite. It allows for easy shortening and copying, and has easy to read stats like number of clicks, country of origin, conversation tracking and a firefox plugin for link previewing, so you can mouse over a bit.ly link and see a little preview of where it goes.

Bud.Url: A very robust shortener that has very detailed stats and tracking. Bud.url allows an easy way to create multiple shortened URLs for the same destination to track and analyze what works and what doesn’t. Multiple pricing plans. They have a free option as well as other plans that cost money but allow more detailed and downloadable stats. A good option for enterprise types.

Zi.ma: A neat service that has all the basic features plus the ability to password protect shortened links, bulk shortening and expiration dates.

TinyURL: No list of shorteners would be complete without mentioning the grandaddy of them all. It’s been around forever, and while it will still do a quick shortening job, it lacks features like customization and statistics monitoring that are standard for the new breed of shorteners.

U.nu: A simply URL shortener that has the advantage of having very few letters in the name itself. U.nu has only four characters to bud.url’s seven, so if you’re short on space in a tweet, u.nu might work for you.

A.gd: Track your visitors, gather IP addresses or cloak your affiliate links using this ‘Grenada-based’ shortening service.

Other URL shorteners: