TinyUrl vs. URL123 Matt 17 Aug 2005

61 comments Latest by George

In our email newsletter, we usually use TinyUrl.com to shorten links. It prevents us from having to send out long links like this:


The creator of url123.com just sent us an email describing the extra oomph his service provides though.

If you were to use URL123 instead of TinyUrl, you would be able to:

* update a short link if the destination link changes, without breaking the short link
* track how many clicks were made on each link
* give your links nicknames so you remember what they link to!
* customize your own subdomain [example - https://37signals.url123.com ]
* customize your short extensions [example - https://37signals.url123.com/SalonArticle ]

TinyUrl has none of these features, and we are adding more features soon, including enterprise features specifically for email lists like your own.

Link shortening can only get so sexy but this does sound like a step up.

61 comments so far (Jump to latest)

LB 17 Aug 05

Generally, I’m not a fan of these services - 9 times out of 10 it means the person sending it to me has something to hide (such as an affiliate link). If I’m sent a link, I want to know where it’s going to take me without having to take a gamble.

Johan 17 Aug 05

LB: Ill + on that. Anyways, link urls and link names are not the same. short name does it’s job imo.

Brady Joslin 17 Aug 05

Typically, I am wearly of these types of links, as well, especially with the increase of phishing scams. I guess you could say it makes me “apprehensive” as to where exactly the link will take me and what information is being captured on me during a redirect process. There is something to be said of URL usability. Also, you can’t discount the branding provided by using your actual domain name in your links.

But, sure there is a tradeoff here if the URL you are trying to share is fairly gruesome. So, what I’m suggesting is that the ideal solution would be using a URL rewrite process on your own server.

Dan H 17 Aug 05

Yeah, Url123 does look better. I wouldn’t use the features that make it better, personally.

At work, I’m looking into making one of these sort of url shortening apps for our intranet. I do have to agree with you guys that having marketing info sent to you with urls that look like they’re from different places is bad. Doing the .htaccess change would be my vote in those cases.

Steve 17 Aug 05

I just did something similar to this for a project, and Implementing this service on your end is anywhere from about 10 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how you want to set it up. I’ll explain the 2 hour version first.

First: Database with your shortened “url key” and your longer “full url”

Second: Small PHP/Ruby/Perl script which will query the database for the “url key” and depending on your preferences, either do a header redirect, a 301 page moved, or a 302 page moved, or use filesystem reads to read the “full url” page right into that script.

Third: mod_rewrite to intercept these shortened urls of a certian pattern, and rewrite them, so the “url key” is passed to the script you already wrote.

The major benefits here are that you don’t have to depend on a third party, don’t have to worry about what the third party is doing with your customers, can implement (or not) any sort of tracking, authentication, or whatever else you might deem needed.

The simpler, 10 minute version of this is that you could always just put the redirects right into the .htaccess or httpd.conf and just use mod_rewrite without any sort of database or script. But this puts the workload on each individual page to do any additional processing, such as tracking/logging/authentication/etc.

Sounds like a fun idea for a little open source app.


furvyn 17 Aug 05

lnk.to used to show the real URL before redirecting. looks like it’s been going through changes and may not do that anymore. Some of the new features look neat, such as private lnk.to’s.

furvyn 17 Aug 05

oops, meant to add http://lnk.to/tiny37 as an example. (instead I linked it to the name)

Silus Grok 17 Aug 05

I’ve used TinyURL in the past, but the concerns raised here have certainly made me think twice about using such a service in the future.

That said, .htaccess files scare the hell out of me… anyone have a suggestion for a tutorial on editing/using them?

* crosses fingers *

PersonalTaste 17 Aug 05

I think the people on this list are overlooking the fact that these services are excellent when used in a non-commercial setting. How many times does a parent, sibling, spouse, friend or child reply to your email stating “the link didn’t work.”

You check your quoted message only to find the link broken across two lines. Rather than explain YET AGAIN that you need to put broken links back together if using a POS email client, I just TinyURL it and resend.

And when used in a commercial setting, they are equally effective as long as the commercial entity is trustworthy.

So if you receive something from PAYPAL with a tinyurl in it, be smart, don’t click it. If however, you are reading a newsletter that you SUBSCRIBED to, by all means, trust that clicking the link won’t DO much other than bring you to a web site.

Maybe it’s a Mac vs Windows thing, personally, I’m not AFRAID to click ANY link. I do however avoid clicking links in unsolicited emails, and if the SPAM piques any interest I usually copy the link out of the email and paste it in the browser to make sure it’s not actually going elsewhere, or secretly trying to pass any variables/info that could reveal my address to be valid.

Kelby 17 Aug 05

to create subdomains for each user automatically, like in basecamp and the url linker, do you have to host your own server or can it be done on say a windows or linux 3rd party hosting using clever scripting type stuff.

any clues??


Bob 17 Aug 05

tiny url makes it great for Goatse links…..

Brady Joslin 17 Aug 05

So, tinyurl and url123 can cause user apprehension and mental overhead?


Speaking of that, so does this form. A Preview Comment button would reduce the my apprehension of how my comment is going to display when I hit submit, espcially when I try to embed HTML. Once I hit submit, there is no comment editing feature and the page is forever locked in cyberspace.

…grimacing while hitting submit…

Brian breslin 17 Aug 05

i think a little php powered htaccess writer would be a great script. just install it in your root, so you could build up urls like “http://37svn.com/muahahah” and it sends you to muahahah.com

I think I would use it for my own sites for email lists (find some cheapo .us domain thats short to use for it). helps you keep your branding one extra second ;-)

JohnO 17 Aug 05

I’m with Steve, I don’t see why a simple redirect can’t solve these problems… Why must we depend on an outside service for such a simple solution? Furthermore the user apprehension/fears when the link doesn’t go explicitly to the domain you expect (though, we techies are truly the only people that look at links - studies back that one up)

Alexandre Simard 17 Aug 05

I guess you could say it makes me �apprehensive�

Nice little poke. Much better than what 37s has been getting here lately. Thanks for the chuckle!

Brian Oberkirch 17 Aug 05

You might also check out elfURL (http://www.elfurl.com) —> tinyURL + tagging, stats, rss. My pal had the idea and banged it out in a few days, just to see what people would think. How useful it might be.

pwb 17 Aug 05

Agree with many that it seems this is easily implemented on your own server.

I’m not sure why it would even require htaccess or mod_rewrite.

Couldn’t you just write a simple Perl (or whatever) script that looks up the URL based on the code and does a location or meta refresh or JavaScript onload redirect?

and 17 Aug 05


kelby 17 Aug 05

I use the custom 404 error page to launch an asp script that strips the url and parses the result against a look up table.

Fanboy 17 Aug 05

What happened to “Less Software”?

Danno 17 Aug 05

What reallly bothers me about tinyurl and ilk is how the hell do they make money?

Kevin Brown 17 Aug 05

Using tiny URL to send out links on your own domain name strikes me as being incredibly stupid. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t shorten your own URLs. It’s a script that’d take about 5 minutes to write.

TinyURL is great when you’re dealing with urls that you can’t control (especially useful when sending cnet articles to friends).

The idea of adding subdomains is downright absurd. How is making the url *longer* useful?

Wesley Walser 17 Aug 05

Kevin probably because the idea of branding anything (even a url) is irresistible to some, and quite honestly a great business tac.

Geoff 17 Aug 05

Here you go:

class TinyController

def dish_to
@longurl = TinyUrl.find(:first, params[:url])
redirect_to @longurl.url


pwb 17 Aug 05

Steve, “website.com/blog” would be easy to redirect with a 404 cgi.

“website.com/?blog” would also be easy to redirect without mod_rewrite.

Mark 18 Aug 05

I use these services for sending links to my friends for stores (Amazon etc) and other sites which have silly URLs. If I started needing it for my own, I’d be rethinking my URLs first, and .htaccess’ing after that.

Anders M 18 Aug 05

Manage your own extensions is nice.

As soon as someone makes a Firefox extension for it…


Anders M 18 Aug 05

There is also a service called shorl.com. They claim that by using koremutake they make the short URLs easy to remember. Sure http://www.shorl.com/geframesanadra is very easy to rememeber. :-)

Lode 18 Aug 05

Darrel wrote:

There�s also http://makeashorterlink.com/ which doesn�t have the fancy features but does show the URL it will redirect to before redirecting.

That’s a nice feature, but makeashorterlink (say that again, makeashorterlink) frequently ends up making the links longer.

When e-mailing something I usually use urlcut, since I can choose my keywords there as well.

Jens Meiert 18 Aug 05

Provides more features, and looks more appealing. (But it’s not coded that good yet.)

Alexandre Simard 18 Aug 05

Damn this is turning out to be a hot topic.

Remind me again what’s wrong with using the original URL, however long it is, inside less-than, greater-than characters, such as this:


My understanding is that this will be clickable in almost all email clients, and that the few users with mail clients that don’t support it will have learned to manually edit multi-line URLs to make them work again. This solution requires *no* software, and causes *no* apprehension about what’s on the other side of the URL.

Of course, keeping the original URLs as short as possible helps too. I don’t use tinyurl or a similar service to quickly send interesting Web pages to a few friends. If your real URLs (the ones I see in my browser’s address bar) fit on one email line, you’re better off. In 37signals’ case, I’m pretty sure that their blog software also provides shorter, “machine” URLs to individual articles (&post_id=###) which could easily be used in their newsletter for the SvN pointers.

Alexandre Simard 18 Aug 05

Blackberry of all businesses should know better about their URL design. In an ideal economic world, a competitor would fix this obvious flaw in their service and John would also have the option to switch provider. But there’s an interesting topic here: URL design for Web clients with poor or absent keyboards. Probably already covered somewhere, of course.

Cade Roux 19 Aug 05

I like shrinkster.com - you can track how many people are using the shrinkster you make, too. There is also a tasktray tool which will detect when you’ve copied a URL and automatically turn it into a shrinkster.com URL.

Ian Smith 06 Sep 05

Another site that also offers tracking is Xents.com - Throw away URLs, tracming

N 20 Sep 05

I like to use www.thiswebsitemakestheshortestlinkpossiblesopeopledonthavetorememberit.com.

Dave 05 Oct 05

I personally prefer http://yatuc.com
It has a realy short url (one character shorter than url123 :) ) and has also nice features (quick shortening, stats,…) and is realy fast.

modicr 24 Mar 06

Semantic URLs

ajai 06 Jun 06

I am looking for a script to make long URLs shorter,
and have a graphic stats for example shortdot.net.
Does anybody know a ready-to-use-script for

Thank you

Babooza 12 Aug 06

I use http://memurl.com

easier to remember stuff

George 04 Oct 06

So much for reliability… from url123.com:
This web site is temporarily offline as we are upgrading our web servers and moving them to a new data center.
If you have any questions, please contact Francesco at [email protected]
Thanks for your patience, and please revisit us in 24-48 hours.