We’ve been living in the Wild West of The Internet. The Internet used to mean Gopher, Veronica, Archie, Usenet, MUDs, IRC (Fall ’88), and telnet, none of which used a graphical interface. Everything was done from the command line, UNIX’s equivalent of the DOS prompt. Today my children, as most people, live on a tamer Internet and feel that The Internet is something you look at with Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari. Chrome users know better. In the past, using a search engine did not mean using Google. Google. How about that Google? Google is doing so well that we have started to aggregate all our services into Google. I know I have. I use GMail, Google Voice, Google Wave, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Reader, and so on. All my data is slowly finding its way to a single company, one which I don’t control. That should scare the pants off of us!
In today’s world of collaboration and information sharing, url shorteners are all the rage. A URL shortener takes a long web address and shortens it to as few characters as possible for sending in SMS messages or making the address easier for someone to type. Bit.ly is the forerunner having secured the default url shortener position with Twitter and Seesmic. 3.ly is my favorite. Despite being essential tools, Dave Winer makes a good argument for why these URL shorteners are bad for the Internet and offers a fix to their inherent problem. The concept of a URL shortener is simple. You could make your own URL shortening service and WordPress users could make a URL shortener plugin. If you made your own, you’d be in control of your data; a principle I highly encourage despite housing so much of myself in The Cloud.
Today, Google enters the URL shortening scene with http://goo.gl/ Expect this to take off. Expect some struggling shortening services to close doors causing waves of link rot across the Internet. As Google consumes another popular activity, url shortening, do we take one more step to losing The Internet to The Google in the way that online activity prior to The Internet used to be known as CompuServe, Prodigy and AOL? In 5 years, will there still be An Internet or will we simply connect to The Google?
Google URL Shortener at goo.gl is a service that takes long URLs and squeezes them into fewer characters to make a link that is easier to share, tweet, or email to friends. The core goals of this service are:
- Stability – ensuring that the service has very good uptime
- Security – protecting users from malware and phishing pages
- Speed – fast resolution of short URLs
Google URL Shortener is currently available for Google products and not for broader consumer use.
Update: Interestingly enough, yesterday, Bit.ly announced Bit.ly Pro, a service to use Bit.ly’s software but with your own domain name. Take note, this is still giving your data to a 3rd party (The Cloud) but it is a proven service, with a system with very interesting feedback (statistics), and probably far more scalable than something you could build from scratch. Dave Winer revisits his concerns with Bit.ly in Build to Flip?.