Google Dec. 14 launched Goo.gl, a URL shortening service that could one day challenge Bit.ly, TinyURL and others of its ilk for big market share in little URLs. Bit.ly bit back hours later by offering a professional service.
URL shortening services like Bit.ly and TinyURL have come into power thanks to Twitter and other services that let users launch URLs, the string of characters that bring users to a Web page.
URLs can be quite long and unwieldy, particularly for Twitter and other services where character space per post is limited. Hence, the rise of Bit.ly, TinyURL and other such services. Even Facebook is getting in on the action with fb.me.
"With character limits in tweets, status updates and other modes of short form publishing, a shorter URL leaves more room to say what's on your mind-and that's why people use them," wrote Google software engineers in a blog post.
Goo.gl, however, is a different animal from Bit.ly, et al., in that it doesn't have a destination with snazzy analytics and other management features. It works only for its latest Google Toolbar and Feedburner services.
To use Goo.gl, a user must download the latest Google Toolbar and restart his or her Web browser. When that's completed, users will see this green share icon in the Toolbar.
Clicking on that will let users choose to launch the page to Facebook, Twitter and dozens of other Web services, shortening it with Goo.gl in the process. Users who share frequently on Web services can add them as buttons in the settings option in the Share menu.
"If the service proves useful, we may eventually make it available for a wider audience in the future," Google said.
That could be a scary proposition for Bit.ly and others in the space, and points to an ongoing trend of Google trying to mimic other Web services to keep traffic flowing to its search engine and other Web services.
In recent weeks, Google has launched a free domain name system and a free online dictionary, not to mention a free GPS for Android phones. Where there are ad opportunities, Google is quick to find and exploit them for more revenues.
Bit.ly answered Goo.gl Dec. 14 when it launched Bit.ly Pro, which provides custom short URLs to let publishers and bloggers use their own short domain names to point to pages on their sites. Bit.ly counts AOL, Bing, The Huffington Post and The New York Times among the early beta participants using custom URLs.
"Users and publishers benefit from the additional transparency that this private-label service provides," Bit.ly noted. "When you see a short URL like nyti.ms, you know the destination Website before clicking on the link."
Adding a + at the end of any bit.ly link takes users to real-time information about that page and how it is being shared. There is also a real-time dashboard that will provide publishers with even more information about their bit.ly traffic.
Bit.ly Pro is free now, but BetaWorks Studios, the company behind the service, told the Times it will charge for it in the future.