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Short URL soap opera continues as announces open source plans

August 17, 2009 |  3:52 pm

Trim After a prolonged micro-drama about the fate of URL-shortening service (Will it die? Will it get sold?), founder Eric Woodward announced today that the service would go in a third direction: open source. Woodward will donate the domain name and the service's source code to the public.

A week ago, Woodward announced that would be shut down because the tens of thousands of URLs being created with it every day were sapping resources from his company, Nambu.  Moreover, Woodward noted, after Twitter chose another shortening service -- -- as the default shortener on, was left at a disadvantage, given Twitter's central place in the short URL universe. 

But after being inundated with pleas from users, Woodward reversed course, saying would stay up.  Now he's taken it a step further by giving to the open-source community, which  will be able to build up on it and utilize's stream of click data -- a fire hose of real-time information that shows which sites users are visiting via the short URLs.

"The usage of URL shorteners needs to transition into the public domain," Woodward wrote in a blog post, emphasizing the populist element of his decision. "By so clearly favouring the URL shortener, Twitter is able to control this flow of shared link data in a way it would not otherwise be able to. Currently, no one outside of the chosen few can access this data, and that is just not right."

The rise of URL-shorteners -- sites that take a long unwieldy URL and offer a short one in its place  -- have created huge numbers of new Web addresses, in effect increasing the size and density of the Web. 

But the durability of URL shorteners -- and the hundreds of millions of URLs they shorten -- is not guaranteed.  If a site such as were to disappear, many threads that connect the Web would be eliminated in an instant, like a hand passing through a cobweb.

The perils of this so-called link rot have contributed to the urgency of saving and consolidating URL shorteners, and on Friday a company called Gnip Inc. announced it was creating a repository of shortened links so that online services could store their data in one location, where it would stay even if the service were to cease operations.

ReadWriteWeb has more detail on the saga here.

-- David Sarno