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A Quick Look at URL Shortening Services & Extensions

If you are new to URL Shortening or are just looking for some good services to use, then join us as we take a quick look at URL Shortening and four of the more popular services available.

What is URL Shortening?

URL Shortening is a process that translates long (and sometimes awkward) website addresses into short easy-to-manage URLs. These shortened URLs serve as a bridge to redirect you or people you share the URL with to the original website address.

Here is an example of just how much difference there can be between a regular URL (with eighty five characters)…

http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/what-is-ctfmonexe-and-why-is-it-running/

Versus a shortened URL for the same address (now only having eighteen to twenty characters)…

http://is.gd/4E3EN

http://tinyurl.com/2th782

http://bit.ly/ApWlc

http://snipurl.com/sth8b

That is quite a bit of difference from the original. While the shortened length may vary they all do that one wonderful thing that you need…provide an easy-to-use address for your social accounts, blog posts, and e-mails. No more awkward or broken links that have to be copied, pasted, and then pieced back together before you can use them.

And now on to the services and some nice Firefox extensions…

is.gd

Once you have installed the is.gd Creator extension you will be able to access it by clicking on the “Toolbar Button” or through the “Context Menu”. Any newly created URLs are copied to the “Clipboard” and can be pasted from there.

url-combo-01

If you decide to directly use the is.gd website, this is what it looks like…lean and focused. For those who would like to add a bookmarklet to their browser(s), there is one available on the “Instructions Page” approximately halfway down the page.

url-combo-02

TinyURL

After installing the TinyURL Generator extension, you can access it through the “Status Bar Icon” or the “Context Menu”. Depending on the particular type of “Shortened URL” that you chose to create, you will have either a “Direct or Preview Link” that is copied to the clipboard and ready to use.

Note: The difference shown in the “Context Menu” is a result of changes available in the options for this extension…but both types are always available in the “Status Bar Icon”.

url-combo-03

The TinyURL website… There is a bookmarklet available for those who would like to create TinyURLs in other browsers (or skip installing a Firefox extension).

url-combo-04

bit.ly & Snipurl

The bitlyFF URL extension works a little differently than the two above. You can access it through the “Toolbar Button, Status Bar Icon, or Context Menu”. Using the “Toolbar Button or Status Bar Icon” will only produce “bit.ly Shortened URLs”. If you would like to create a shortened URL for TinyURL, is.gd, or Snipurl, then you will need to use the “Context Menu”.

Whichever of the options that you use, the shortened URL that you create will be copied to the clipboard and can be pasted into the appropriate app or webpage from there.

url-combo-05

A look at the bit.ly website… You can add a bit.ly sidebar bookmarklet or a regular bookmarklet to your browsers and sign up for an account.

url-combo-06

And finally the Snipurl website where you can set up an account and/or add a bookmarklet to any of your favorite browsers.

url-combo-07

Conclusion

These services can provide a quick and easy way to create shortened URLs and provide different levels for managing them based on your personal needs.

Links

Download the is.gd Creator extension (Mozilla Add-ons)

Visit the is.gd website

Download the TinyURL Generator extension (Mozilla Add-ons)

Visit the TinyURL website

Download the bitlyFF URL Shortener extension (Mozilla Add-ons)

Visit the bit.ly website

Visit the Snipurl website

Akemi Iwaya (Asian Angel) is our very own Firefox Fangirl who enjoys working with multiple browsers and loves 'old school' role-playing games. Visit her on Twitter and .

  • Published 11/27/09

Comments (15)

  1. 0skar

    I think http://tinyarro.ws/ is the shortest of all

  2. Alexander von Studnitz

    I don’t know if it just works for me, but strangely the website http://to./ is a url shortener to, so this would be the shortest one.

  3. Jake Lsewhere

    While http://to./ seems to work for copy & pasting the url, the one thing I use short urls most for, twitter, breaks the links and makes them nonclickable.

    In the vein of http://tinyarro.ws/ for being the shortest, I also like http://j.mp/ from the makers of bit.ly.

  4. Khaled Musaied

    When this service started in 2006 -I think- I wondered what is the benefit of this service but when I sow twitter I realized that its necessary.

    I have one tip for developers that the shorten URLs are case-sensitive so you have to check your application if you are lowering the entered url … thats all.

  5. Shail

    is.gd is the best ever!

  6. calebstein

    I hate getting tricked into going to fake sites that install viruses.

  7. cowgod

    i was sad to see that you did not include http://tr.im on your list. i’ve been using it for a long time and was really pleased when they reopened their service a few months back. it clearly has the best name of all the url shortening sites. :)

  8. Kyle

    My favorite so far is http://e.ly. At least for now, it only puts 3 case sensative characters after the /, so with only 15 characters including the http://, it’s the shortest one around. Plus, like is.gd, which is about the next shortest, you can append a – to the end to preview the long version of the link before you actually visit the page in question.

  9. Kyle

    Sorry, I don’t know how that happened. The correct link to the shortener is http://3.ly

  10. HemiSync

    I much prefer OpenDNS’s shortcuts. You can have any short keyword replace an entire URL. Such as the example presented on their FAQ, where they replace the URL for the BBC with just the word BBC. Works great and very easy to remember, plus with everything else OpenDNS has to offer for free, it is a great service.

    http://www.opendns.com/support/article/95

  11. Dan

    Personally I don’t see the appeal of short URLs. If a page name is too complicated to remember, surely you’d either change it to something more useful, or just use a hyperlink so someone can simply click a short description of it anyway.

  12. calebstein

    @Dan: I agree with you fully. Another problem with shortened urls is that you don’t know where they go unless you use an external tool.

  13. hey

    How did you create the submenu Shrink URL in FF (seen in a screenshot above)?

  14. Asian Angel

    @hey – It was created by the bitlyFF URL Shortener extension (link provided in the “Links Section above). ^__^ That is a nice little sub-menu to have around. ~__^

  15. YossiD

    @Dan – It’s a few years later so I don’t know if anyone’s listening anymore, but:

    1. Shortened URLs are great for websites whose URLs you can’t control. For example, I created a Google Map of wineries in Israel and the URL is impossible to remember. Instead I created: tinyurl.com/yossiswinemap

    2. The problem with tinyurl and similar services is that you can’t change the referenced URL once you have set it. So if I move my map to a different host I can’t reuse the tinyurl. I have found that snipurl will let me reassign the shortened URL (I suppose that’s why they require registration), but I wonder how long they’ll be around. Other url shortening services have come and gone but it looks like tinyurl is here to stay.

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