switchAbit, purveyors of wonderful web tools, have launched a new URL shortener called bit.ly. Besides a cute name, bit.ly has some nice developer-centric features that make it stand out among the hordes of these services (TinyURL, is.gd, twurl.nl, etc.). From Dave Winer’s post on the launch:
They asked what it would take for me to use bit.ly, I said: data. I need to know how many clicks each pointer got and where the clicks came from.
They gave me that, and thumbnails, permanent caching of the pages I’m pointing to (goodbye linkrot) and a lot of smart stuff going on behind the scenes that we’re not ready to talk about yet. (Though we told Marshall and he explained.) Here’s the info page for this post.
And, most important, an XML/JSON interface, so I can process all that data with my own programs.
As URL shorteners go, it looks great. I love the caching using Amazon S3/EC2 cloud resources, the stats, the developer features (XML and JSON), and again, the name is cute.
But I won’t be switching my bits (ha!) to use bit.ly. At least, not yet. Why? Because it’s still way too big of a pain in the butt to use these services, without some tools to make it easier.
Even with a bookmarklet (which you can click to shorten the URL of the page you’re on), it costs me way too much to time load the page for the URL I want to shorten, click the bookmarklet, wait for the shortener page to load (and, optionally, tell it “yes, I really want to shorten this”), and then get my shortened URL, which I then have to manually copy for pasting elsewhere.
Right now, I use TinyURL as my URL shortener (mostly for posting links in Twitter, where every character counts). Not because it has better features than any other shortener (in fact, compared to bit.ly, TinyURL comes up lacking in a lot of ways), But I keep using it for one reason: the TinyURL Creator Firefox addon.
With that addon installed, all I have to do to shorten a URL is right click on any page (OR any URL on the page), choose “Create TinyURL”, wait a second (during which my TinyURL is created and automatically placed on the clipboard for pasting), then click the “Close” button and paste the shortened URL wherever it’s going.
Simple and fast, it saves me at least 10 seconds every time I shorten a URL (which I do many times per day, thanks to Twitter).
I WANT to start using bit.ly. But I won’t until there’s a FireFox addon for it. I can’t code worth beans, or I’d do it myself, and I know the developers are busy, having just launched a few hours ago. But having a Firefox extension makes shortening URLs MUCH faster and simpler, and as soon as I can get one for bit.ly, I’ll dump TinyURL like a bad high school romance, and “switch my bits”. (ha! See that? I did it again!) 😉