tr.im URL shortner shuts down, could your favorite be next?

August 10, 2009

tr.im URL shortner shuts down, could your favorite be next?It was inevitable that one of the numerous URL shortening services would close, it’s just doubtful anyone would have expected to see this much made of it.

Tr.im announced yesterday that it would be closing its doors effective immediately, although all redirects created by the service prior to the announcement would continue to function until at least Dec. 31 of this year.

If you are unfamiliar with URL shortners, it is only because you haven’t heard the name before, but you are almost assured to have seen their handy work.  The services take a lengthy Web page address such as:

http://tech.blorge.com/Structure:%20/2009/08/09/schools-look-at-switching-from-printed-textbooks-to-the-digital-format/

And turns it into something like:

http://bit.ly/2f4Z5Z

While the concept does predate micro blogging service Twitter, it was Twitter’s limit of 140 characters per message that made the services explode in popularity.

Even though Twitter increased the demand for shortening services, it was also Twitter that tr.im partially blames for its eventual downfall as the micro blogging service chose bit.ly as its default shortening service this past May.

And finally, Twitter has all but sapped us of any last energy to double-down and develop tr.im further. What is the point? With bit.ly the Twitter default, and with us having no inside connection to Twitter, tr.im will lose over the the long-run no matter how good it may or may not be at this moment, or in the future.

There are rumors that bit.ly has reached out to tr.im about purchasing them, but nothing concrete at this time.

This thought was expanded on further in a follow-up post:

This shutdown was also not born out of any bitterness towards Twitter. While we are disappointed that users cannot choose their URL shortener, that is Twitter’s decision to make. We are simply accepting the business reality of the situation, and moving on. Life is not fair, and such is life as a Twitter developer (which none of us here will be any longer).

This does raise some important questions about the stability of services we have all come to rely on in our every day Internet usage. Shortening services in particular are vulnerable because they are difficult to monetize, and when a service such as tr.im closes its doors, all of the URLs it generated will eventually die off and become dead links.  While most people think of only using those sort of links on Twitter, they do get used on some Web sites, in blog comments and elsewhere.

Living online is something we all seem to be moving towards, but if we can’t rely on services stick around, is it something we should trust?

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