I wrote on the topic of URL shorteners before from an etiquette perspective, but I’m seeing something alarming now. The set-up: Twitter always codes your tweeted links with its t.co URL service, whether they’ve already been shortened or not. When you click the link, your browser first goes to t.co and is then redirected to the original URL. If you shorten your URL before posting to Twitter, that’s the “original” URL, so my browser goes there only to get redirected to yet another URL. And so on.
More and more links I click in my Twitter feed end up blocked by a firewall. Much of this is caused by URL shorteners, often “vanity” URL shorteners. These typically use an “arbitrary” country’s top-level domain where short domain names are available (to keep the shortened URL as short as possible). Apparently the process of setting up your own link shortening service is quite easy – here’s a Google search on how to create a URL shortener.
From a marketing perspective, a vanity URL might make sense. From a practical perspective, you’re also running the risk of missing what may be a key demographic: people working in corporations with firewalls. Here’s another Google search on country codes blocked by firewall. It’s common for country top level domains to be blocked, so your URL will die at the firewall unless your domain is added as an exception by the IT organization.
Just because it’s easy to set up doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Since Twitter changes and shortens your URL automatically, the only reason for shortening URLs today would be to track my clicks. But you can’t track my click, and I can’t see what you’ve shared, if your short URL dies at my firewall.
Here’s a list I made this morning looking through about an hour of my Twitter feed just to show how common this practice is becoming (not all fail for me):
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