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Twitter introducing URL shortener

June 8, 2010 |  6:03 pm

First Twitter shortened how we communicate, muzzling the long-winded on its popular Web service. Now it’s cutting down on all those extra characters in our URLs, too.

As Twitter put it: "Length shouldn't matter." At least when it comes to Web links.

Twitter is testing internally a new service called t.co that will be available to all users this summer. It will automatically shorten links, the San Francisco company announced on its blog Tuesday.

The service will work if you are using Twitter on the website or if you are on a third-party service. But if you are on a computer rather than mobile phone, you will see the entire link. That way you will know what you are clicking on before you click, removing some of the "obscurity," the post said. The number of characters in the shortened link still count toward the 140-character limit.

Twitter says the service should help in its fight against spam. It could also set the stage for Twitter to offer analytics, the way other shortener services such as Bit.ly do. Because Twitter will be tracking the links (in aggregate, not in a personally identifiable way), TechCrunch also points out that Twitter may be looking at content recommendation, basically suggesting content based on what kinds of information you like to consume.

In March, Twitter began routing direct messages through a new shortening service to prevent phishing and malware. It confirmed in April that it would launch a shortening service for its users. 

Even though this move was expected, it can't be welcome news for companies like Bit.ly that make URL shorteners. Of course, Bit.ly also offers corporations analytics and custom domains to go along with the shorteners. So it's not clear that this latest move, one in a series that have shaken up the start-ups that have built their businesses on Twitter, will cut short their life span.

-- Jessica Guynn

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