One year ago link shortening service TinyURL experienced an extended period of down time and we argued that the outage illustrated serious risks associated with the service. One year later, the landscape doesn't look any less bleak. A search of the web turns up complaint after complaint after complaint about TinyURL being down and links being broken - apparently for at least a day or two every month.

People should stop using TinyURL! In the following post we'll list a few reasons why this is important and point you towards some of the best alternative link shorteners.

Who Cares? We Care!

Some people argue that URL shorteners are inherently bad. They obfuscate links, the put people at risk of malware or RickRolling and they are unprofessional. Be all that as it may, URL shorteners are so useful that they are here to stay.

TinyURL has huge mindshare and credibility because it's been around for a long time, is widely used and its name clearly says what it does. It's very useful to share shortened links with people by email, IM, Twitter etc. but both users and system administrators are sometimes less willing to trust an obscure URL shortener they haven't heard of before.

If you use TinyURL, you run the risk of your links being broken, for several days out of almost every month. How on earth is this acceptable to people? Perhaps other people don't use URL shorteners for anything important, but we do, and we expect the links we share with people to work.

Alternatives

There's a nearly infinite list of alternatives to TinyURL, but here are three of our favorites.

Bit.ly is a new URL shortener with some awesome semantic web and geolocation data APIs on the back end. Using it will make the world a better place. Bit.ly also offers users all kinds of statistics.

We use Bit.ly with the wonderful Firefox extension URLBarExt, though that does add a few steps that aren't really necessary. Once you've got it set up it's super easy to use.

SnipURL offers many of the same stats that Bit.ly does but is friendlier to use. It doesn't have the semantic magic on the back end but it is more immediately social.

Cli.gs has analytics and a new "geotargeting" feature, as you can see demonstrated in the video below.


Right Clig Demo from Pierre Far on Vimeo.

There Are Countless Alternatives to TinyURL

TinyURL obviously isn't too concerned about their uptime or else the problem wouldn't continue every single month. There are smarter alternatives all over the web and spreading the love around can't help but decrease load problems.

There are a number of "roll your own URL shortener" options and that is pretty classy - but for most of us just getting to know some alternatives would be a very good idea.