Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Death by 7 Characters: TinyURL as Dr. Frankenstein

In 2001 a couple of programmer bro’s got tired of posting long-ass links in emails and founded TinyURL: the first URL shortening service (you know the kind: take http://www.onandtrue.com/2010/11/black-friday-its-historical.html and turn it into http://bit.ly/g5HmvC). TinyURL’s crack squad was the first to point out the cost associated with URL length, and their service provided the sword for us to cut the waste. But in 2010, parallel with the transition of URL shortening from novelty into necessity, TinyURL is being forced onto its own sword: its domain name is just a couple of characters too long.

For its first four or five years, TinyURL just kinda dingled in obscurity – cause URL shortening was cool and all, but, like, who cared. We didn’t mind sending and receiving long links in our emails: it never seemed pressing to trim letters off of a link. Which was the case until Twitter showed up to the party – with a cooler full of 40’s and got us all mad drunk.

Twitter blew up fast, and like the barnacle that latched onto Free Willy – TinyURL rose to prominence on the underbelly of Twitter, the much more rock-starrish sea-creature.

Because the dawn of the Twitter-era brought with it Tweet-gentrification that pushed traditional long-trail links out of our virtual communications.

We no longer had mounds of characters to fuck around with. The allocation was stingy (140), and as such the “cost” of a character went wayy up. Long-trail links couldn’t afford the new prices – you gonna take up your whole tweet pasting the article link? nope – and so the old school long links were forced out of the space – to be replaced with nicely packaged short links.

And just like the Cali pick-axe salesmen were saying at the beginning of the Gold Rush, TinyURL saw Twitter growing in popularity and was like “fuck yeah, bros”. Cause like the pick-axe in 1849, everybody needed TinyURL’s tool.

Popularity though courted mad imitation: first bit.ly, then goo.gl, t.co, and countless other TinyURL look-a-likes showed up for a slice of pie. And though the services were all essentially peas in a pod, there was one key and tragic difference between TinyURL and its offspring: domain length.

TinyURL.com is 11 characters long (t-i-n-y-u….). bit.ly is 6. T.co if 4 and a couple of othersr are 4. Shiiiit, cause in a tweet, 7 characters can make all the difference – the best Twitter users could make you cry with 7 characters. Just like that, TinyURL could no longer compete at its own game.

Though TinyURL invented URL shortening, it came into existence and was named/branded, before URL shortening was important down every letter. “Let’s call it TinyURL, that’s short enough..”

These other guys came post-Twitter, with exactly the same goods, but shorter domains: the first ever 7-character deathblow.

TinyURL becomes Dr. Frankenstein: falling at the hands of his own monster.

1 comment:

Blogger said...

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