The drawbacks of shortlinks

These days it seems that people would rather generate a shortlink than use a real link, even when it’s not much shorter. It’s hip, after all. (Peter actually caught me doing this. It was for a link that used to be long but was shortened recently so a shortlink isn’t needed anymore. I did it to continue a habit, not for hipness.)

I’ve begun to see an increasing number of drawbacks to short link services. Here are a few I can think of: 1) if the service is down, the link is broken; this just happened to me. 2) I can’t see where it’s headed, so I don’t know if I’ve already read it. 3) I don’t know what I’m about to click through to, so I’m less likely to trust and click. 4) I’m much more interested in the content if I know what it is. Some of these problems are helped by links that are chosen not to be a random hash, but not all.

I’m starting to feel that it’s bad netiquette to use shortlinks unless they are really needed. And I’m a little troubled by what happens if tinyurl and go bankrupt – half the Internet will be full of broken links. Oh wait, that will mostly affect Twitter… maybe it’s not so bad after all.

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I'm Baron Schwartz, the founder and CEO of VividCortex. I am the author of High Performance MySQL and lots of open-source software for performance analysis, monitoring, and system administration. I contribute to various database communities such as Oracle, PostgreSQL, Redis and MongoDB. More about me.