First of all for those of you that do not know what a shortened URL is, here's a quick explanation.
A shortened URL allows users to shorten, share, and often track links (web addresses). Reducing the URL length makes sharing easier. For example the shortened link http://bit.ly/steverblog would actually take you to my blog on MyOpera at http://my.opera.com/SteveRiches/blog/, and http://bit.ly/b3hHHs would actually take you to one of my web sites http://www.richosoft.co.uk/.
Shortened URL's can be obtained for FREE from places like http://bit.ly, and others. Some like bit.ly, will also offer tracking statistics on your shortened URL's. This allows you to see what site the visitor was referred by, how many people have clicked this URL, where they came from, what browser they were using and much more.
OK, so I have have a shortened URL for my page. What use is it to me or my friends, colleagues or business contacts?
- When Tweeting on Twitter, I can save characters in my tweet by reducing the length of a link to my website that I wish to include, but the viewer can still reach the long link address in one click.
- When sending an email and including my web address, I can shorten any link to my website, making the email less cluttered, and if it is a very long web address, avoid the viewer having to cut and paste the address because it wouldn't fit on one line in the email.
- I can get extensive tracking statistics. (see above)
- I don't have to type long web addresses into emails, tweets and facebook posts, reducing the possibility of typing errors.
- Links look tidier.
So much for the benefits what are the possible problems?
- When you click the link http://bit.ly/b3hHHs you do not know where it is going to take you, whereas when you see the link http://www.richosoft.co.uk/, you can be pretty certain you are going to the RichoSoft site.
http://bit.ly/b3hHHs could be taking you to a porn site, phishing site, malware distribution site or some other un-desirable site.
My advice to you is to only click shortened links if you are confident that the source is genuine and the link valid. Some big companies use shortened links including companies like The BBC, Opera and big retail organisations, and the links they may send you, or post on twitter can usually be trusted.