Here at ReadWriteWeb, we’re big fans of URL shorteners (although not all URL shorteners mind you). We use them for microblogging sites where we have to conserve characters, tracking how many people are clicking through links we share, and keeping groups of links organized. That’s why we like Sqworl, a URL shortener that acts like a lightbox for links we’re sharing.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to gather collections of stock images – or looked at a Flickr set – you know the benefits of a lightbox. By collecting a series of disparate images under a single URL, you can easily show someone else exactly what you want them to see. Why not use that same technique when sharing URLs?
Using Sqworl to shorten links does two things: first, it helps you organize a series of links under one short URL, and second, it provides a series of site thumbnails – a lightbox of sorts – so recipients can see what they’re getting before they click. (As an example, here are Twitter accounts for ReadWriteWeb writers.)
While Sqworl works as advertised, there are a few minor drawbacks. The Sqworl URL isn’t the shortest URL you’re going to find and there aren’t any click tracking features. (Admittedly, you could solve either of those issues by running the Sqworl URL through a URL shortener that provides tracking.) And if you’re adding new sites to a collection – which is likely what you’re doing – the thumbnails take a few minutes to generate, so sharing them too soon will defeat the purpose.
Even if you don’t want to share the links with anyone else, Sqworl is worth trying. With some ingenuity, you could make your personal link management or social bookmarking more visual. Using the combination of Sqworl’s collections and thumbnails, you may soon be scanning for links based on visual clues – much like the icons on your desktop.
If saving URLs with a visual reminder sounds helpful to you, take Sqworl for a spin and start squirreling your URLs away.