Short URLs – Reduce the risk

Short URLs are valuable in instant messaging or other text length limited places. They are also a valuable method for marketers to track which marketing tool produced the best results. I actually didn’t know that second bit until I checked out http://bit.ly/pro/.

The risks

First
Short URLs mask the real URL from the user. When a bot or a stolen account inserts a link into an email to a list, or a comment on a web page, or anywhere else, users may follow the link to a dangerous web page or an unexpected porn site.

Second
Short URLs may hide the real URL from link-checking tools that try to safeguard users from dangerous web sites.

Third
Link rot. Most link checkers today do not identify short URLs, so they don’t check if the targeted URL exists. (Do any actually do this?)

Some fixes

Our apps and sites need to protect the web user from dangerous pages linked from comments and our own content. We also need automated tools to prevent hidden link rot.

Fix 1
Take control of the short links used on our web sites. Value added short URL services allow us to control the links that we insert on our own sites, and fix them ourselves.

Fix 2
Your site should provide really short links for itself. This would be like the permanent links that blogs provide, but really short. Since the domain name would be the same, it would be obvious what site the link goes to, at least. Some blogging software sort of provides this capability now, in the form of customized perma-links, but I want both normal long permalinks with the title in them, and really short links. This might not replace normal short links for 140 character SMS messages (Tweets) if your domain name is long, but would definitely help for other purposes.

Fix 3
Ask for link checking services. Ask:

  • The virus checking service that filters your email
  • The site monitoring services that checks your site is up.
  • Google
  • Black list services
  • Any other suggestions?

Opportunity

If you want to implement Web 2.0 services inside your company, or if you want to provide them for other companies, this suggests:

  • a short URL service inside your firewall, for the Instant Message service you provide between employees.
  • a private short url service available externally, for marketing. This follows from Fix2. You can do all the analysis you want on the links that are followed. You may not be able to link to all the other info that major services have available on (almost) everyone who clicks on the web, like their name, address and phone number ;-), but your data will be private.
  • A short URL button to go in the major browsers, available to all employees
  • A button on the button bar that you provide to all employees
  • A short URL app for major cell phones, linked with your internal server

References

Problem

Solution

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