Bit.ly, has just released a Firefox plug-in that you'll probably want to add to your browser. It lets users hover over shortened URLs from a wide variety of services, including TinyURL, and see the resulting full URL - as well as how many people have clicked through the shortcut.Our favorite URL shortening service,
Along with Bit.ly's semantic analysis of destination pages, the data unearthed by this new plug-in holds a lot of promise. The plug-in also does some handy tricks on Twitter. It's not perfect yet, but it holds a lot of promise.
We profiled Bit.ly when it launched in July and recommended using it for URL shortening because it makes use of all the valuable data that other URL shorteners leave unused.
The clickthrough data is great to see, but it's not without some serious shortcomings. Bit.ly queries a long list of URL shortening services' APIs to get traffic data and some of them don't update very frequently. There's also a lot of phantom clicks showing up; the company believes they've found a 3rd party app that's partially loading the destination pages and inflating the numbers, but we'll see if they can do anything about it. For now this data is better for determining the relative popularity of a shortened link than it is for literal numbers.
Twitter users will like the extension because hovering over any username there makes the user's information pop-up. That works quite well and is very useful. It's a fast way to see who someone is talking to in a conversation on Twitter.
The moral of the story here is that in little things like URL shortening, there's a whole lot of valuable information and room for innovation. We're glad that Bit.ly is moving to take advantage of that and we look forward to seeing what still other people will do with the data once it's stockpiled and made available by Bit.ly for further development.
You can get the Bit.ly extension for Firefox here.