URL Shortener: What are they?


URL Shortener is an application that allows one to generate short links to a web page. This technique is particularly convenient for messaging technologies which exert a limit on the number of characters that can be used in a message. Apart from shortening links due to character restrictions, the technique is also used to disguise the address linked to. However, disguise of URLs whether for security or personal reasons has a disadvantage because such web addresses can be blacklisted as spam.

URL shortening is used for various reasons. For example, an organization might have an awkwardly long URL address which might be almost impossible to remember. Shortening of such an address is useful as might save time spent entering those long addresses. As mentioned earlier shortening URLs allows them to be used in services that restrict character numbers. The shortening technique is popular in forum threads or social networks like twitter due to the character limits as explained earlier.

One can exchange a long URL with a short one by going to sites like the one for tinyurl where one can execute the shortening. The service for URL shortening maintains the relationship between the long and short URLs and directs users who enter through both URLs to the same site. There are numerous online sites where one can swap URLs but caution should be taken as some sites were blocked or could be blocked due to spammers.

In the shortening, the long URLs are related with a unique key. However, although most protocols are supported for shortening some cannot be shortened due to security reasons. Due to such security reasons most current URL shortening services are filtering their links through applications like Google safe browsing to filter out spam.

However, URL shortening can cause some problems. For example, were the short URLs to stop working, then all other web addresses linked to the service would break down. Shortening URLs can also lead to security concerns. This is because short URL obscures the main target address and can consequently redirect a user to another site. Some sites block redirected short URLs from being posted due to security reasons as short URLs might be prone to abuse to generate spam messages.

Short URLs add complexity to the process of accessing an address. Every access via a short URL requires added requests which increase latency or the time taken to access the site. There are numerous websites offering the shortening of URL services and most websites are registering their own URLs to enable easier sharing.

Registering is usually done online at the sites where the service is offered and country of origin is always referred to in the registration. Due to the reference to a country of origin, where a country’s name is used in the domain, some sites can be blocked by countries, if those countries disapprove of the content.

The service of shortening URLs though with its fair share of complications is useful especially in internet socializing. The rise of many websites offering the service only emphasizes their popularity.