Today, the video site announced it's launching youtu.be links. They're not as short as the super-brief URLs users might see from bit.ly or is.gd because each one contains a unique ID for the video it links to. But this extra bit of information makes the URLs more useful for developers, too.
While the resulting URLs aren't significantly shorter than a regular YouTube link, users will have the added benefit of knowing exactly what kind of content they're being redirected to, which isn't always the case with many shortened URLs.
Also, with the video ID as part of the short URL, writes YouTube Engineering Manager Vijay Karunamurthy, "developers can do interesting things like show you thumbnails, embed the video directly or track how a video is spreading in real time."
End users can shorten links manually simply by putting the video ID (the part of the YouTube URL that comes after the equals sign and before the ampersand, if there is one) after http://youtu.be/. For example, "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1acVM7_rWw4" is the regular URL of an interview we did over the summer with a great startup advisor in Boulder, CO. The short version of that link would be "http://youtu.be/1acVM7_rWw4".
Or, for those copy-and-paste-averse folks among us, links will be automatically shortened when broadcast thought the site's sharing mechanisms.