URL Shortening services like bit.ly, ow.ly, and others have exploded recently (shortly) onto the social internet’s stage. What seemed to start as way to get links small enough to fit into a tweet or to make it easier to paste into a mail, Shorteners are responsible for a flood of link sharing with literally billions of links getting shortened and sent around.
Last week, TechCrunch‘s Erick Schonfeld wrote a two interesting articles: “What Happened to Bit.Ly’s Market Share,” and “Lies, Damn Lies, and How to Get Under John Borthwick’s Skin,” In these, Schonfeld discusses the discrepancies in market share statistics for bit.ly, and whether it was truly as dominating as it had seemed to be.
Here’s my read of bit.ly and the Shorteners business overall based on these articles. First off, the most interesting part of the pie chart Schonfeld showed was the “Other” category–apparently now 26.19% of Shortener traffic is coming from this category. Look for this Other number to grow. And look for big names, particularly in the social media space, to show up as players here–think Facebook, Google, even groups like WSJ, LinkedIn, etc. As a result, to net/net things out, I don’t foresee one dominant, winner takes all default URL shortener.
Here’s basically why. First off the task of shortening is not all that challenging a thing to do. Second, media (social or otherwise) brands will quickly realize that there’s gold in them thar links, and they’ll want to have a handle on the link flow within and beyond their purview. So this business is not necessarily hard to create a good customer experience for and it can drive value in broad media channels. I’d say expect lots of entrants.
I tend to use Bit.ly, and I tend to like their analytics view of things. That said, I also expect that in 10 years, we’ll look back on the Shortener business as this quaint inter-regnum period in the evolution of the social web, after which point, any link I want to shorten is easily saved, shortened and shared with open analytics, etc., etc.