The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

Some Of That Information I Actually Need
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Joshua Schachter lists several reasons why shortened URLs (those mini-links provided by TinyURL and its children), despite their convenience in some circumstances, are actually pretty bad. And I agree.

Some of Schachter’s reasons are technical, related to DNS servers and the code they’re written in, and others are more counterfactual – like what happens when a company goes out of business, and all of those links go dead?

But eventually, under the rubric of “usability issues” he gets around to the big one for me: “The clicker can’t even tell by hovering where a link will take them, which is bad form.”

I don’t know about you, but when I’m browsing the web, I hover over links like each one were a suspect public toilet — only touching down when I’m sure I know what I’m getting into. I take clicking through VERY seriously. Hovering over a link to get a peak at the URL may not always be perfect information, but to me, it’s essential. TinyURLs don’t let you do that. You’re going to the middle of nowhere. This bothers me, every time.

In response to Schachter, Jason lists what he’d like to change about the way Twitter uses shortened URLs:

With respect to Twitter, I would like to see two things happen:

1) That they automatically unshorten all URLs except when the 140 character limit is necessary in SMS messages.

2) In cases where shortening is necessary, Twitter should automatically use a shortener of their own.

That way, users know what they’re getting and as long as Twitter is around, those links stay alive.

Very reasonable ideas, all of these. In general, it seems like Twitter’s going to have to create its own rhetoric of linking as powerful as the “@username” designation for links to Twitter users. Maybe an “%sitename” HTML tag in lieu of a shortened URL? Not sure.

5 comments

I may be stupid, but it seems like Twitter already shortens URLs.

Twitter DOES shorten URLs, but it uses one or more external services to do so. Hence “a shortener of their own… [so] users know what they

Two TinyURL related stories:

1) I actually use it a lot at work when I want to send links to people without triggering 50 alarm bells with the “email surveillance” compliance team. Because of SEO (I’m assuming) so many websites have URLs that are, um, rather descriptive. That’s fine if it’s the NYT notifying us that bank_ceos_huddle_over_table but less so if Jezebel is asking whats_your_favorite_vibrator!

2) I once emailed a friend a TinyURL link and he wrote back a relatively strange and brow-furrowed email. There was much confusion until I realized that a letter had been left off the end and the link that had opened up for him was some sultry bikini photo. I was mildly mortified.

Katie,

1) Thank you for these two great stories;

2) Thank you for identifying on your tumblelog the only part of my post that really, really pleased me.

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