Google launched its new URL-shortening service to the public a couple of weeks back and it offers some current and potential features that are likely to encourage many users to leave services such as bit.ly, which claims that Google has simply copied most of their ideas, anyway.
A URL-shortener helps people cope with the awfully long addresses generated by sites these days. In fact, you may notice some pretty long and mysterious addresses here on SiteJabber too, sometimes. Whilst there's nothing intrinsically wrong or bad about them, try fitting one into a tweet, or a forum posting. And don't even bother suggesting that someone copy them down by hand. Sharing them by any means is a pain, even if it's practical.
Enter URL shortening. The concept is simple: type any URL (web address) into a box, hit the button, and back comes a different, and much smaller URL that still takes people to the same place when they click on it. In other words, the service creates an index of new URLs that point to the old ones. And an infinite number of new URLs may point to one address, since many people all around the world may be asking for short URLs that take their clickers to the same final destination.
USER ---> short URL -----> translation ------> original long URL ---> destination
USER ---> short URL a ------|
USER ---> short URL b ------| ----> translation --> same long URL ---> destination
USER ---> short URL c ------|
All this has to be transparent, too, so that using a short URL is no slower than going directly to the original address.
You're relying on the URL shortening service to be around a long time, of course, and you're also trusting them to keep their service up and running 24/7, reliably. So the first thing commercial users of a service are looking for is a reliable brand name. And the second, is some history to prove that the administrators of the service can keep it running.
Now then, let's think. What would be a hugely popular brand, with a history of running servers efficiently 24/7?
Enter Google, with their new service at goo. Gl. And they have some added value services, too. Every time a person clicks on one of their links, the data is saved, and the person who created that link can see how many people have used it. Very cool. Now, I can get the sort of data that only webmasters once had.
I gather goo. Gl is also going to be offering data on the operating systems and web browsers of goo. Gl URL clickers, once again, very useful data if you're a web designer.
But what people will be waiting for is to see how far Google will take this in integrating existing services such as Google Analytics. It seems unlikely that they can screw this up, unless people decide they don't like the goo. Gl /xxxx URL format.
At the moment, all click statistics are going to be available to the public. So anyone can see how popular anyone else's links are. Whether that remains the case, if there are businesses out there willing to pay for secrecy, we shall have to wait and see.