July 05, 2008

TinyURL Adds Custom Alias Feature To Shortened URL Service

The URL shortening service TinyURL was first useful for sending longer URLs to friends over e-mail to avoid line breaks that would often disable links in many e-mail programs.

With the advent and massive growth of SMS and microblogging services, like Twitter, TinyURL and other services like it have become omnipresent, an integral part of sharing blog posts, news, and other items.

In fact, Steve Gillmor of TechCrunch recently wrote, "Who controls TinyURL... controls the high ground in the battle for the Internet platform."

But until Friday, the URL was always a string of gibberish, a simple link to tinyurl.com followed by an indecipherable string of letters and numbers. You typically had to trust the person or service sending the TinyURL, or preview it to be sure you weren't being sent to a Rick Astley music video or a malware site.

Now, TinyURL added a new wrinkle, the ability to make a custom alias for any shortened URL you make, making it just as easy for people to read as Web browsers. Now, instead of always showing links to my blog posts that read as http://tinyurl.com/55aml3 or http://tinyurl.com/6px3kc, I could in theory, make them read like: http://tinyurl.com/lg70508 or http://tinyurl.com/tweetdeck.

This might seem like a small update, and it is, but it could make the service more mainstream, especially in the enterprise where slower adopters are more comfortable sharing items that are branded, or in a consistent format. It could also be another step in helping TinyURL compete with smaller URL shortening sites, including Snurl. With the exception of automated TinyURLs generated from TwitterFeed, I'll be trying to make my own custom aliases to links I share via Twitter, E-mail, or FriendFeed.