So I’m on Twitter (1)…(why, oh why?!)…anyway the service of Twitter is easy enough to use; it’s fairly straightforward and once you get up and around I could see the benefit of it. Still, one of the biggest problems I noticed with Twitter when I got onto it was the character restriction (140 characters or less) – this wasn’t such a problem at the outset but I noticed that when I wanted to link to my pieces at Associated Content from Yahoo! (2) that I had a real problem adding any color to the post. The characters in an Associated Content of mine on average are around 90 characters; that means more than half of the characters in the post are taken up by the URL.
This presented a real problem which almost got me off the Twitter bandwagon. However I noticed other people were linking with these strange, short hyperlinks. I did some research and found out about the service TinyURL (3). TinyURL is a service which came about before Twitter and was basically derived for making long URL’s shorter. The anonymous, strange looking TinyURL address has a few problems though which make a service like this an untenable end.
Spam: One of the most obvious things which folks could be worried about in using TinyURL is the spam issue. They appear to have found their way around this though stating that: “TinyURL was created as a free service to make posting long URLs easier, and may only be used for actual URLs. Using it for spamming or illegal purposes is forbidden and any such use will result in the TinyURL being disabled and you may be reported to all ISPs involved and to the proper governmental agencies.” Pretty strong words from a website. Still, spam isn’t the only potential problem one could imagine from a service like TinyURL.
Finite Number of URL: The really obvious problem I’d see with a service like TinyURL is exactly what a character restricted website like Twitter would only exacerbate. If TinyURL was used largely in academic or news circles and wasn’t very popular, then I’d imagine this to be less an issue. However everyone with a half-baked thought and a webcam is on Twitter, posting videos, audio, links, and opinion. So what happens when the TinyURL actually runs out of spaces? Then the TinyURL begins to get longer and longer! Without any individual identifiers (like “AssociatedContent.JesseSchmitt.TinyURLarticle.com) the TinyURL service is bound to begin repeating URL’s! Then what?
Conclusion: While it may have begun with good intentions, TinyURL seems an untenable provider. I love the last part of their disclaimer on their website “This service is provided without warranty of any kind.” That’s the worst part; one day your URL will be no more. The TinyURL disclaimer is just evidence of the larger truth about life; in the words of W.B. Yeats: “All things fall and are built again.”