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URL shortening on Twitter with t.co

G13th June 2011

C4 Comments

TTwitter

The implications of t.co for people who use personalised URL shorteners.

Just a few days ago, Twitter announced that automatic URL shortening would be introduced across the entire site.

Twitter argues that automatic URL shorteners make their service easier to use and also provide a means for Twitter to monitor malicious links. Practically, this decision means that a plethora of URL shorteners such as bit.ly and tinyurl.com are effectively rendered useless.

Bit.ly has built a significant business on URL shortening, as have the other companies. Whilst I am not especially concerned about their futures as business enterprises, I am rather annoyed about the implications for those of us who operate our own URL shorteners either directly or via Bit.ly Pro.

I launched my own self-managed URL shortnener adamdimec.ch in 2009. It seemed like a neat way of personalising my own links on Twitter and additionally, I could ensure the preservation of my links in light of the tr.im collapse and following the cli.gs hacking debacle.

As of yesterday, I noticed that my adamdime.ch links were being shortened to t.co. Whilst Twitter still presents adamdime.ch links on my Twitter page, they don’t appear in my Twitter RSS feed. Because I utilise my RSS feed in publishing my tweets on my website (using Jonathan Nicol’s PHP script), this is a problem. And I cannot yet find a workaround.

Tweets republished on external websites now display the new t.co shortener

I am not the only one with custom URL shorteners; they’re very popular with both individuals and companies. I can imagine t.co will soon emerge as a common frustration for many website owners everywhere. I say most, because it appears that certain trusted shorteners like youtu.be and flic.kr still function as before. Perhaps Twitter will offer a system of accreditation for trusted domains? I sure hope so.

For me, the only cost is a small .ch domain registration fee and some time. But for others who’ve paid for more expensive domains (such as .in) and then for a Bit.ly Pro account over the top, that would be very annoying indeed.

If I do find a workaround for translating t.co back to a custom URL via the RSS (or another method), I will post it here. Shown below is Twitter’s link code, displaying adamdime.ch (sans http://) but routing via t.co.


What I really think would be better was if the t.co addresses worked in the background so that the order of traffic was Short URL > t.co > Target Website. That way, those of us who use short URLs can continue to do so, and those who can’t be bothered can have theirs automatically shortened by t.co. Twitter could still collect usage data and prevent phishing attacks under such a scheme.

   

Comments:

4 responses to “URL shortening on Twitter with t.co”

  • Written by Jonathan Nicol on 14 June 2011:

    It looks like it’s only the links without an http:// prefix that are being rerouted to t.co. Or is twitter automatically stripping the prefix? If that’s the case it’s kind rude of them to mess with the contents of tweets in that fashion.

  • Written by Adam Dimech on 14 June 2011:

    Hi Jonathan. Twitter has been stripping the http:// prefix from the urls and replacing them with an http://t.co redirect as per the code example in the article. So far, I have only seen http://youtu.be and http://flic.kr URLs preserved.

  • Written by Jonathan Nicol on 16 June 2011:

    Yes, I just experienced it myself. It seems like Twitter are preserving ‘official’ url shorterners – you mentioned a couple, and my bit.ly links are left intact – but routing everything else through t.co. Very uncool. They should at least introduce a setting allowing users to opt out of automatic t.co conversion.

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