On Tuesday, Twitter VP for communications Sean Garrett announced that, starting this summer, "all links shared on Twitter.com or third-party apps will be wrapped with a t.co URL," a short URL that would replace preexisting addresses such as bit.ly and owl.ly. The goal, he said, is to overcome the "obscurity" of such short links and show more information about "where a link will take you."
Tech writers are energized by the announcement. The use of short URLs was widely popularized by Twitter, which condenses lengthy Web addresses to conserve space within Twitter's 140-character field. The company's decision to blanket links with a standardized URL has widespread implications for link-sharing on the Web. Here's what the tech community is saying:
- Take That, 140 Characters! The New Web's Brad McCarty revels in small pleasures. "The 140 character limit? That's still in place. But it will now count as 140 characters after the link wrapping. And there was much rejoicing!"
- Filling a Hole "Twitter is finally moving to fill one of the biggest holes the social network has had since it launched: the lack of a built-in link shortener," writes Mathew Ingram at GigaOM. However, Twitter's adoption of a standardized link shortener is also a shot across the bow to competing services, particularly user favorite bit.ly. "The term 'wrapper' means that every link that passes through Twitter will be shortened via the t.co system -- and not just long links, but even links that have already been shortened by some other method, such as a competing service like Bit.ly or a white-label version such as the New York Times custom shortener."
- Safety First Geoff Duncan at Digital Trends emphasizes the anti-phishing aspect of Twitter's new shortlinks: "The move is as much about preserving space with the 140-character limit of tweets so users can accompany shared links with messages, but also about protecting users from malicious content, phishing attacks, and and attempts to spread malware. Links that get reported to Twitter as malicious will bring up a warning page before giving users a choice about whether they want to continue on to the link."
- Content Recommendation, Simplified Tech Crunch's MC Seigler sees the new URL shortening software as the precursor to something larger. "The expansion (which will eventually be available to all Twitter users) is interesting in terms of what it means for the URL shortening ecosystem. But it also should be interesting from a broader perspective to the entire ecosystem because it opens up some new possibilities, such as content recommendation," writes Seigler. "Since they're tracking these links, Twitter will be able to provide app developers with this data as well."
- And Now, Some Concerns At Econsultancy, Patricio Robles breaks down potential problems with the new service. "Any service that redirects links reduces the speed at which users can get to their intended destination, even if only by a small fraction of a second... Twitter's track record when it comes to performance isn't the best in the world. If the fail whale invades t.co, watch out," warns Robles. "Routing every link shared on Twitter through a single shortening service obviously creates a single point of failure. And if there's ever a data loss related to the shortening service, affected links could be rendered entirely useless." Like with Facebook connect, privacy is also a serious concern. "With its control of links, Twitter will be able to collect a lot of data about users, and some of that data will raise privacy implications that for the most part don't currently exist."