Published: 10 years ago

What we learned from’s (almost) surrender

There are several things that I never did like about the URL shortener business.

First of all, you never know how long these services will last.’s surrender may lead to the If kept their decision to shut down their service, we could have lost millions of links, unless some other company were to buy them out. You could try to use only extremely successful services like, but it will defeat its own purpose in the long run: is already using 5 characters after their URL, not making it that short anymore. If you go with less used services you might have shorter urls but you could end up using a service that, in few months, may be out of business.

On top of that, you are really wasting a lot of “link juice,” vital for ranking better on search engines. Even when you are linking to your own site, if you use these services, you are linking to them. And they can do whatever they want with that link. They can even decide to place your whole site into a frame, adding ugly ads at the top, or their own “toolbar,” like Digg did, without asking your permission; and there won’t be anything you can do about it.

The best solution to all these problems is to have your own shortener. You don’t need to be an expert developer to do it, you don’t even have to be a developer at all. There are several open source scripts and plugins to accomplish URL shortening. Here’s a short list of services I found:

  • YOURLS – It’s probably my favorite and the one that will, very soon, power my own URL shortener. It supports custom keywords URLs, it has basic stats and an API. It also has its own WordPress plugin, which can automatically shorten your posts and links.
  • Shorty – This URL shortener had a nice-looking admin interface, where you can edit and delete your URLs. It offers simple stats as well.
  • PHPurl – Super simple PHP & MySQL script, it offers the option of choosing a custom keyword.
  • phurl – If you are thinking of offering your shortener to the public, this script features CAPTCHA and re-CAPTCHA, just in case you fear bots.
  • TightURL – This script offers some public protection as well. It checks submitted and accepted URLs against spam databases to prevent abuse by the Bad People of the Internet.
  • Nile

    As far as I know, even using a friend’s url shortener is fine. I know that my own, which is a live example of my script, PHPurl, is not blocked.

    I have several projects for PHPurl in the future, one integrating a captcha or even re-captcha, and the other, a plugin to coordinate with WordPress for those who have a preferred shortener or personal url shortener that uses PHPurl as its core.

  • Nile

    oops… btw, thank you for mentioning PHPurl.

  • Josue R.

    Very true indeed in regards to services like these which you cannot depend forever. I use URL shorteners myself and built a simply one for a friend to track herself. In the end, its about the traffic you can monitor and control.

    • Davide

      Links are one of the currencies of the web. I think you would never give your money to somebody who doesn’t guarantee you that he will spend them exactly as you request. Digg is another example of what could happen with any other service.

  • john davis

    Here is example of a site using YOURLS. I was able to setup in about 2 hours.

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