Tuesday, December 15, 2009

URL shortening services just in time for short-cial media

With the boost of Twitter and its limitation of 140 characters, URLs need to be increasingly (decreasingly?) shorter. There is a grandpa among these types of services called TinyURL which used to be a leader but now as Twitter has assigned Bit.ly its official URL provider, some services like is.gd continue to operate, tr.im even died as a result (and later was resurrected, but for how long?), others want to win the crown over (Google's goo.gl and Facebook's fb.me) and organizations are also doing their own...

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Yesterday Techcrunch wrote about Bit.ly's PRO service to serve short URLs for big companies and they are giving it a shot.

Now, if you're a Twitter user, which service should you use? And how to use it?

1. First of all, don't use short URL's in blog posts and comments

I may change my mind about it but for now, I believe that real links should point to real destinations, without any URL shortening in between. You're not limited to 140 characters outside of Twitter, so use real links. I've already seen people using bit.ly links inside comments and blog posts and I have two problems with them:

- they hide the branding - if you're posting a bit.ly link, the person clicking on it is not sure where they'll be going. On the contrary, if you use the original link, everything's clear.

- they break the Internet's logic - Google's PageRank (tm) and all the indexing mechanisms as well as the whole logic of the Internet is based on good full-blown links and I like this logic.

My take for now - stick with the short URL's when in Twitter. Anywhere else use the original links.

2. If you're not a webmaster (or don't have webmasters working for you) - use 3rd party services like bit.ly

Bit.ly has all the statistics, widgets and all the mechanisms that help creating short links a snap. And if you're using Twitter clients like Tweetdeck, just give them our bit.ly username and they'll create short links for you automagically. Easy to set up and use. Go for it.

3. If you do have webmasters working for you and care about the links - get your own URL shortener

I know HTML/PHP etc. and still wanted to go with the 3rd party provider but when tr.im closed their doors and wrote their URLs will not be served past 2010, I decided I want to control the links better myself and cannot trust a free URL shortening services enough.

I built my own URL shortening service just for myself (with stats and all) to use not only inside my Productive Magazine but also to promote my web app Nozbe and other cool stuff. It took one week of development time so it wasn't that bad.

The advantages are really cool for me:

- I own the domain (pmagz.com) so I control the traffic
- I can customize the shortener and how it works (and I use it for various purposes)
- I can promote my brands on twitter by installing redirections on nozbe.com and other sites
- I can add other cool features (especially tracking for marketing purposes) as I need them, and I've already added a few

If you can't build your own but know some PHP, get yourls - it's a free script and you can install it on your server - I've heard good things about them. I didn't know about them prior to building my own service.

Disclaimer: I don't use my in-house URL shortener only when I post on this blog, as posterous uses their own (post.ly) for that purpose and I like the fact that it's automatic. This is the only exception to my rule.

Conclusion: Link shorteners will be popular as long as Twitter will be popular so it's good to establish your own URL shortening strategy to make sure people reading our Tweets do click through to the content we want to show them.

What's your take on URL shortening? What's your strategy for posting links on Twitter? 

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Open ID is for geeks... Facebook and Twitter are not... and win!

Yesterday on LeWeb conference Michael Arrington interviewed guys from Facebook, MySpace and Linkedin (among others) about the quick adoption of Facebook connect as  a way to log in to different web sites without having to use new passwords... and he commented on some of the alternatives... and why they failed:

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Facebook Connect has taken the Internet by storm - because it's not for geeks

Almost everyone has an account on Facebook. Chances are that many people started using the Internet because they wanted to connect to their friends via Facebook. Not everyone has an account on MySpace (I don't!)

This means your regular mum and dad are using Facebook... and they know how to log in there.

If you know how to log in to Facebook, you know how to log in elsewhere

This destroys the barrier of entry for people - no need to sign up again, just log in with Facebook. It makes the barrier of entry even lower and helps crossing the chasm of getting not only geeks but also regular people to use your startup.

Twitter's log in is 2nd in the race... Google Account is in the middle and MySpace login and OpenID have failed

Facebok and Twitter rule the social media now and everyone has an account on either one or the other or... both. Google Account is also a cool way to log in, but frankly, it's kind of spooky to use Google for everything we do online. It's enough they have my Gmail, Google Reader and Docs...

MySpace lost their momentum last year and this is why they lost to Facebook and Twitter.

OpenID is for geeks. A no-geek will not understand it and this is why the adoption of this "standard" failed in the long run. Mum and Dad will understand Facebook login, they do it every day. OpenID is not for them.

Facebook Connect or Twitter login coming to Nozbe?

Probably, I'll have to test it and see how it works for us but I'm considering it now. If it makes the barrier of entry lower for non-geeky users, I'll be happy to give it a shot. We don't have the timeline for this yet, but watch out as we make it happen over the course of next months.

I'll include Facebook connect and Twitter login to the new startup we're working on... probably on day one already.

Do you use your Facebook Connect or Twitter data to sign in to web apps? Do you use OpenID? What's your preference?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.