URL shorteners have recently exploded in popularity with the emergence of Twitter. One of the most popular services bit.ly recently launched a free service called bit.ly Pro that creates custom branded short URLs. Companies such as Facebook and Google have also created their own using fb.me and goo.gl. So what's the big deal?
Custom shortened URLs can act as verified links and be used as an important branding tool for your business or organization. In time, users who are familiar with your brand can also learn to trust them. bit.ly also includes real-time statistics associated with each link, which can be helpful when trying to monitor the success of click-through rates for links that you send out.
At UCLA, we've chosen to create our own branded URL shortener at ucla.in using bit.ly Pro. bit.ly Pro offers a service that integrates any custom domain with bit.ly's existing service. It also includes several features such as a publishers dashboard, which provides aggregate real-time statistics from the past 24 hours. Partners already include AOL, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
You can also customize the service by using bit.ly's API. By default, bit.ly allows users to shorten any URL. This can lead to the creation of malicious links and spam, potentially hurting your brand. For ucla.in, we've integrated a white list that only allows the creation of shortened links to sites in the *.ucla.edu and UCLA-owned domains. So when users go to use ucla.in, they won't be able to create links to unaffiliated websites.
There is always a risk of using URL shorteners because links are now being redirected through a middleman. What happens if bit.ly's service goes down, or a malicious attacker takes over, similar to what happend with Cligs? These are still issues to consider. However, bit.ly appears to be a well established player, and with so many high profile organizations now on board, it's a service you should consider.