Sunday, October 3, 2010

4 Ways Google's URL Shortening Service Can Win

As Google joins the Internet address shortening fray here's how it can differentiate itself
by Jared Newman

The Google URL shortening service, that allows you to transform long Web addresses into short easy to remember links, was opened to the public Friday. After nine months of testing the service, Google now joins the ranks of, TinyURL, and All of these services cater to people who despise long URLs and use services such as Twitter to share Web address and limit messages to 140 characters.
Using new service a very long Web address is reduced to followed by a combination of four letters and numbers. When someone types in the address the requested is routed through Google, which takes Web surfers to the intended site.
Google says it wants to keep its service lean, with an emphasis on stability, built-in spam protection, and speed. But that might not be enough to secure a spot on top of the link-shortening heap. Here are a few more features I'd like to see from
Shortening Shortcuts Where They're Needed Most
Google has a lot of services that deal in hopelessly long URLs, such as search queries, Place pages and Maps results. Some people say URL shorteners are only good for Twitter social networks, but sending someone a massive URL for search-related services is just rude. If Google included small buttons to shorten these results on demand, sharing a link for directions to your house would be a lot more pleasant.
Expand Links in Chrome
One of the frustrations of shortened URLs is the inability to see where they're taking you ahead of time. There's no shortage of URL expansion plug-ins for Web browsers -- Chrome URL Expander, for instance, makes every URL appear in full -- but I'd like to see this function built directly into the Chrome browser, so when you roll over a link, there are no mysteries.
Create a "Copy" Button
This may seem really trivial, but Google should take a page from and include a one-click way to copy shortened URLs to the clipboard. Having to select the shortened link and copy it with a contextual menu in the browser is just one extra step that makes less desirable.
Get Creative
Facebook does something clever with its own URL shortening service: When you type in a user name immediately after the URL, such as, you're taken directly to that site's Facebook page. I would love to see become a shortcut to services (imagine taking you to maps) or even searches (taking you directly to the results when inserting query immediately after the URL).

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