by Elizabeth Kricfalusi, Tech for Luddites
I discussed TinyURLs in my earlier post, Four Ways To Engage Your Tweeps, but it has many more uses than just Twitter so it's worth its own post.
For example, you've probably run into a situation where someone e-mailed you a link to a website but, when you clicked on it, you got a Page Not Found error. Then you realized that the URL was so long that it broke over two lines in the e-mail and only the top line was hyperlinked. This is another example of where a TinyURL will help. You may also want to use one in your Facebook or LinkedIn status lines, or anywhere else you don't have a lot of characters to work with.
So what IS a TinyURL?
Basically, it's an online service where you enter the long URL and it generates a much shorter one that, when you enter it in your browser, redirects you to the original page. As I mentioned in my other post, it's one of those things when you first learn about it you think, "Man, that's a brilliant idea. Why didn't I think of it?!"
Here are the steps to creating a TinyURL. I'm going to use the URL from an earlier post, I'm On Twitter! (Now What?), to demonstrate: http://www.techforluddites.com/2009/01/im-on-twitter-now-what.html. (Ironically, this would be a good place to use a TinyURL because, as you can see, the original one is too long for this column width and gets cut off.)
- On the page you want to link to, highlight the URL in your browser's location bar and press Ctrl + C to copy it.
- Go to www.tinyurl.com.
- Put your cursor in the text box where it says to enter a long URL and press Ctrl + V to paste yours in there.
- Click the Make TinyURL button. A page will come up that shows both the original and shortened URL. For example, my TinyURL is: http://tinyurl.com/bf3xat.
- Highlight the TinyURL on the web page and click Ctrl + C to copy it.
- Paste the URL in your e-mail or wherever you want to use it.
- I'm not sure exactly how TinyURLs are generated but if multiple people enter the same long URL, or if you go back at a later date to convert the same URL again, you'll get the same TinyURL each time.
- The service also offers the option of creating a "preview" URL, so when people click on your link, it will take them to a page that tells them what the full URL is.
The theory is that some people won't want to click on a URL if they don't know where it's taking them, so this helps reassure them that it's not a scam of some sort. Personally, I never use it, because I find it a nuisance, but it's a personal choice.
- You can also add a button to your Bookmarks Toolbar (Firefox) or Links Toolbar (IE) that will automatically convert the URL for the page you're currently on and take you to the TinyURL site with the results. Here are the instructions for adding the TinyURL button.
- If you need an even shorter URL (for example, if you're just over your 140-character limit on Twitter), you can replace the "http://" prefix of the TinyURL with "www." and it should still create a live link. For example, http://tinyurl.com/bf3xat = www.tinyurl.com/bf3xat.
- There are several other services that do the same thing as TinyURL like bit.ly and twurl.cc. I have absolutely no idea what the advantages are for these different options but, if anyone does, feel free to add a comment or send me the info and I'll add it to this post.
Reader Debbie, who publishes the blog, Frisco Kids, reminded me of one more great feature of TinyURL, which is that you're able to create a custom address that's more meaningful than the random collection of numbers and letters that are generated by default. For example, if I wanted to make a TinyURL for the same post as above, I could create "tinyurl.com/twitter-now-what" instead of "tinyurl.com/bf3xat". Just enter your preferred address in the Custom Alias box. Common terms may already be taken (e.g. tinyurl.com/twitter), but it will let you keep trying until you come up with a unique one.
Thanks for the reminder Debbie!
I also forgot to mention that the TinyURL never expires. Of course, if the underlying link is broken, the TinyURL will be as well.