Thinking About Short URLs

Over the past six months, there has been much ado about Twitter and social media in general...which in turn has created a similarly sizable ado about a host of related issues - including short URLs, social media ROI, and Twitter apps.

I have an above-average understanding of the key issues regarding short URLs and why so many nerds think they're bad.  I'll skip the details - read this well-circulated and well-written piece if you're interested.  Despite the salient arguments against the construct, there are a couple issues worth pointing out that I haven't seen elsewhere...

If you use the "potentially weak intermediary" argument, then you have to consider that email marketing apps are just a big a threat to the DNS framework as URL shorteners.  Every email marketing service provider (ESP) on the planet redirects URLs and counts clicks in a fashion very similar to URL shorteners...and thus serves as an intermediary between me and the content I seek with each click.  I don't see anyone worried about the health of the scores of ESPs and their potential impact on the old links sitting in my inbox.  And I don't expect to - partially because these links are in my inbox and not the wild, but primarily because these things just become less of an issue over time.

Using the same argument, I posit that the longevity of short URLs posted to social streams like Twitter and Facebook are even less important than that of the links in my inbox.  I'm willing to bet that 99% of the click graphs in and every other shortener on the planet look just like this one:

The vast majority of the clicks happen in the first couple hours and - save for retweets and such - the click volume declines rapidly.  So who cares if the link still works a year from now?  Just saying is all...

Regardless - this problem eventually solves itself.  The social media skeptic will say that Twitter will relax its character limit and render all short URL providers useless.  I say this is unlikely - short URLs extremely valuable to marketers because they're the gateway to social media ROI. 

The more likely path is that and other providers prove to be legit and eventually build real businesses around social media management, with short URLs playing a key role.  HootSuite and CoTweet are already making great headway down this path...

Lastly, the kerfuffle-almost-failure indirectly supports my thesis.  Their business failed expressly because they tried to monetize short URLs as a service, not as a part of a broader offering. 

Plus - those guys are morons.