A while back I wrote about Twitter’s move to start automatically shortening all links I post via their official apps for Mac and iOS with their own t.co URL shortener (Twitter, Stop Shortening My Shortened Links!), despite me having my custom short URL in there. Well, right now we are beginning to see part of the reasoning why they did that.
Even though it is just as annoying now as it was before, Twitter has come up with a good reason for doing it. Whenever you are on the Twitter website and a tweet contains a link shortened with t.co, it will show up partly expanded, so that you know where you are taken.
I must truly applaud Twitter for finally implementing this feature. However nice it may be though, it still doesn’t justify the forced shortening. In my opinion, it would be easy for them to open up this functionality to third-party providers such as bit.ly. Even though this might potentially lead to abuse, having the “expanded” link show something different to confuse, Twitter could easily solve this by only granting access to this functionality to providers whom are known to be trustworthy, such as bit.ly.
Why shortened links at all?
When thinking more about this however, I begin to again question the need for URL shorteners. The only reason they came about was so that it would be possible to link to websites in your tweets, without going over the 140 character limit. Much has also been said about the possible dangers when clicking on a shortened link and it is clear that Twitter now wants to respond to this and help reduce the risk for fraudulent links.
It would however seem very easy to do away with the shorteners overall. There is certainly the find and replace possibility in code languages to allow for finding of a link and perhaps just shortening the display of this in the Tweet, while allowing the full link to be pasted in anyhow. By doing so, we would not have to bother with shortening links, and the outcome would be much similar, only with much less infrastructure.
With Twitter implementing this feature, we have come full circle! From Twitter having created the need for shortened URLs to them now displaying the links, partially, in the tweet. So, I ask, why do we need URL shorteners again?