Bit.ly is a web-based URL shortener designed to shorten long links for easier sharing. Users can type or paste a long link into the link entry box on the Bit.ly site, press the Shorten button, and a shortened version of the link is returned. This makes the link much easier to share on sites such as Twittr, Facebook, MySpace, etc. An example of a shortened link is http://bit.ly/8ztxd. The user has options to copy the shortened link to the clipboard, or to share it via email, Twittr, Gmail or Facebook. When this link is shared and people click on it, it is routed through the Bit.ly site to the original long link. Registered users of Bit.ly can use the service to track their links to see how many times they have been clicked. Data is also available on who clicked on the links.
There is a convenient browser bookmarklet available from the Bit.ly site, which brings up a sidebar in the browser window when the bookmarklet is pressed. This sidebar will contain the shortened link of the web page that the browser is currently on, with the same sharing options that are offered by the Bit.ly site. After sharing the link, uses can close the side bar by clicking on the Close button. The site also offers a Preview plug in for Firefox, which allows users to place their cursor over a Bit.ly shortened link and see the original link address in a pop-up text box. The Bit.ly site can also be used to perform a search of all Bit.ly links on Twittr for a particular keyword. The search results return the links along with the number of times they have been clicked.Show more screenshots »
New York-based Bit.ly was launched in June 2008. Andrew Cohen is currently General Manager, and Nathan Folkman is System Architect. The site has undergone continuous growth since launch. In May 2009, Twittr made Bit.ly their default link-shortening tool, greatly increasing traffic to the site. As a result Bit.ly launched in August 2011 a SDK for the new Twitter features in iOS5. The site currently serves millions of unique monthly visitors, and has an Alexa page rank below the 600 mark.
There are lots of URL shorteners to choose from which are similar to bit.ly. One of the larger and older services is TinyURL. TinyURL offers a service very similar to Bit.ly, but does not provide traffic statistics on their links. TinyURL has slightly more users than Bit.ly, with an Alexa page rank near the 400 mark. TinyURL was replaced by Bit.ly as the default link shortener for Twitter.
The Bit.ly site has a very Web 2.0 look and feel. There is a minimum of content on the site’s pages, and navigation is very intuitive. The home page is dominated by the text entry box for URL shortening. Page loads are fast, and the site is quite responsive. The browser bookmarklet works well – the sidebar loads seamlessly and quickly. There is a convenient top menu bar shown on all pages of the Bit.ly site, with tabs including Home, Tools (bookmarklets are located here), Search (search Bit.ly links on Twittr) and Blog (the Bit.ly blog). There is no advertising displayed on the Bit.ly site.
Registration to is required in order to track links. No registration is required to simply shorten a link. The registration process asks for username, password and email address. No validation of the email address is required.
Registration to Bit.ly is free and there is no premium membership to the Bit.ly site offered.
The Bit.ly service is recommended to anyone who shares links often on the major social networking sites. The service is very easy to use, and the shortened links returned by the site are much less unwieldy than their long counterparts. The browser sidebar bookmarklet is especially convenient, and works very well. Bit.ly is quickly replacing TinyURL as the link shortener of choice.