URL Shortener Bitly Announces Big Update (Unfortunately, It Sucks, And Everybody Hates It)

Here’s the thing: people don’t like change.

This has always been true. Whenever an adjustment is made to something popular, irrespective of how significant it is, most people, at first, won’t like. A certain percentage will vocalise their dismay. Others will join in. For a while, it will be nasty.

Then, usually, if the changes have been made with good intentions and have actually improved the service, and once folks have actually had a chance to try the new stuff, the moans will dissipate. Sure, you’ll always get a minority of endless whingers, constantly threatening to quit and so on. But most of the time, most of us will, eventually, roll with it.

Again, if the changes actually improve the service. This is the absolute key part.

Yesterday, URL shortener of choice Bitly, which has generated more than 25 billion shortened links since inception, announced a change to their platform. A big change. New Bitly, they’re calling it.

Great. There’s only one small problem: everybody, and I mean everybody*, hates it.

Why? Because it’s taken what was a really useful and fast service into something that is bloated with unnecessary add-ons and buzzword crap, and made a one-click share into something that now takes at least three clicks, and is really, really confusing.

In the good old days, which we’ll refer to from now on as BNB (Before New Bitly), shortening links on Bitly was a breeze. A pleasure. It was fast, responsive and if you used an extension you could crunch down the URL of any webpage in a matter of seconds. If you had a Bitly account, you could then share that shortened link straight to Twitter via Bitly using the title of your choice.

So simple. So effective. So perfect.

Because of this, Bitly quickly became THE link shortener of choice. Popularity builds trust, and study after study showed that Bitly was the most trusted URL shortener of all, which meant that links shortened via Bitly were far more likely to be clicked by your followers.

All these reasons were why I’ve always recommended the use of Bitly to my readers. It is – was – far and away the best URL cruncher. It did the job brilliantly, and essentially guaranteed you more clicks.

Not no more. While those guaranteed clicks on Bitly links are probably still safe (for now), the process of getting to that sharable shortened link just got a lot more awkward. Even using the (formerly fabulous) Chrome extension, it takes a full three clicks to prepare a shortened URL to send to Twitter. And, to be honest, the first few times at least, a lot more.

Here’s how it goes:

  1. Click on the Bitly extension icon
  2. Stare blankly at the screen at the new drop-down box
  3. Bitmarks? Notes? Bundles?
  4. Through trial and error, figure out that ‘notes’ are actually the part where your tweet text is now meant to go
  5. Click on save.
  6. Realise that just saves the shortened link without the text (sorry, note). Go back. Redo if necessary. Click on save and share.
  7. Click on Share to Twitter.
  8. Job done. Observe the growth of your new, full beard in the mirror. Ladies too.

Previously, this was a two-click process. If you remove the part where you clicked on the icon, it was one click. Now, it’s at least three, and all of the new stuff is unnecessary baggage.

Head on over to Bitly.com, and it’s even worse. The homepage wants you to sign up with Twitter and Facebook, and once you’ve logged in (you can still use your existing account) it’s all bitmarks and bundles. Bitmarks, Bitly says, are “better bookmarks”, allowing you to “save, search, and organize all your links from around the web”. These can be grouped into “bundles”. Everything can be made private or public.

“We have big plans for bitly, and we want to build this neighborhood with our community. So get in there, start bitmarking and please tell us what you think!”

In other words, Bitly is trying to evolve into its own sharing network, caught betwixt and between Tweetmeme, Google+ and Reddit. And failing dismally. I’m all for innovation, but nobody wanted or asked for another bookmark service. This extra crap is just that – extra crap, that the majority didn’t ask for and won’t ever use.