Twitter Testing Link Shortener for Better UX, Security, Analytics

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-06-09

Twitter June 8 said it is internally testing a way to let people shorten Web links to share with others, a key move for a microblog service that caps posts users publish to 140 characters.

The microblog service, which in March began routing links within direct messages through its link service to curb the spread of malware and phishing, said all links shared in the Tweet box on or third-party apps will be wrapped with a succinct URL later this summer.

In a nod to, TinyURL and even Google's own link shortener, a link such as could be wrapped as for display on SMS, but it could be displayed to Web or application users as, or as the whole URL or page title.

"Ultimately, we want to display links in a way that removes the obscurity of shortened link and lets you know where a link will take you," according to a blog post from Twitter spokesperson Sean Garrett.

While security for its users and a better user experience are the main reasons for this effort, Twitter has another purpose in mind for this impending brevity of links.

Garrett said routing links through this service will contribute to the metrics behind the company's Promoted Tweets advertising platform. The tool will serve as a key quality signal for the company's Resonance algorithm for deciding if a tweet is relevant and interesting to users.

Eventually, and the Resonance algorithms will be used in its forthcoming analytics service for commercial accounts.

Garrett said developers who create applications for the Twitter platform can prepare for this service by testing their code on a handful of accounts for Twitter employees, including @TwitterAPI, @rsarver and @raffi.

In the meantime, those who use, or TinyURL can continue to use those services for link shortening and analytics. Twitter will wrap the shortened links users submit.

Twitter watchers argue Twitter's addition of its own link shortening system will in time edge out and other services making their meals off of Twitter and other platforms that leverage link shortening as a main conduit for messaging.

Twitter wants to control the content that enters its platform, easing the way to make money from new offerings, such as Promoted Tweets and analytics for commercial accounts.

The best way to do that is to offer its own Web services to collect the information. That will undoubtedly leave some third-party developers in the lurch.

Concerns about this came to light in April over the official mobile applications Twitter launched for BlackBerry, Android and iPhone devices. But that hasn't killed off rival third-party application providers such as Seesmic or Twidroid.

The company also said it will nix third-party ads within the tweets stream. And and 140 Proof are still in business for in-tweet ads.

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