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URL http://www.tinyurl.com
Slogan Making long URLs usable!
Commercial? Yes
Type of site URL redirection
Registration No
Owner Gilby Productions
Created by Kevin Gilbertson
Launched 2002
Revenue Donations, Advertising
Current status Active

TinyURL is a web service that provides short aliases for redirection of long URLs. Kevin Gilbertson, a web developer, launched the service in January 2002 so that he would be able to link directly to newsgroup postings which frequently had long and cumbersome addresses.


[edit] Service

The TinyURL homepage includes a form that's used to submit a long URL for shortening. For each URL entered, the server adds a new alias in its hashed database and returns a short URL such as http://tinyurl.com/2unsh in the following page. If the URL has already been requested, TinyURL will return the existing alias rather than creating a duplicate entry. The short URL forwards users to the long URL.

TinyURL also offers an API that allows applications to automatically create short URLs.[1]

Short URL aliases are seen as useful because they're easier to write down, remember or pass around, are less error-prone to write, and also fit where space is limited such as IRC channel topics, email signatures, microblogs, and email clients that impose line breaks on messages at a certain length.

Starting in 2008, TinyURL allows users to create custom, more meaningful aliases. This means that a user can create descriptive URLs rather than a randomly generated address. For example, http://tinyurl.com/wp-tinyurl.

[edit] Criticism

The convenience offered by a TinyURL also introduces potential problems, which have led to criticism of the use of TinyURLs.

TinyURLs are subject to linkrot, in the case the service stops working, all URLs related to the service will become broken.

TinyURL obscures the original address, and as a result it's sometimes used to redirect to an unexpected site. Examples of this are rickrolling, redirecting to scam and affiliate websites, or shock sites; ZoneAlarm has given the warning "TinyURL may be unsafe. This website has been known to distribute spyware." TinyURL has countered this problem by offering an option to present a link when using TinyURL, instead of redirection.[2] In addition, even if the link does not include a preview, the preview may still be accessed by simply prefixing the word "preview" to the front of the URL (Ex: "tinyurl.com/8kmfp" could be retyped as "preview.tinyurl.com/8kmfp") to see where the link will lead. Opaqueness is also leveraged by spammers, who use such links in spam to bypass URL blacklists. TinyURL, in turn, disables spam related links from redirecting.[3]

Some websites have responded by blocking TinyURLs from being posted. In 2006, MySpace banned posting TinyURLs.[4] Yahoo! Answers blocks postings that contain TinyURLs.[citation needed] The Orkut social network recently suppressed all TinyURL addresses. Wikipedia also blocks TinyURLs from being posted as part of its spam filter.

[edit] Early abuses

Early on, the resulting URL aliases of the service were predictable, and were exploited by users to create vulgar associations. The URL aliases dick and cunt were made to redirect to the White House websites of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Second Lady Lynne Cheney. After the inauguration of Vice President Joe Biden, the aliases were changed to redirect to the White House websites of Joe Biden and Jill Biden.

As of June 15, 2006, the aliases redirected to a preview page that contained the following disclaimer.

This TinyURL was created by a user of our service back when the creation of the IDs for the TinyURL were sequential and predictable. This TinyURL in no way represents the beliefs of the people who bring you the TinyURL service and we apologize if this has brought offense to anyone.[5]

On February 2009, redirection was terminated and the following error message appeared.

The TinyURL (dick) you visited was used by its creator in violation of our terms of use. TinyURL has a strict no abuse policy and we apologize for the intrusion this user has caused you.[6]

[edit] Impact

The popularity of TinyURLs influenced the creation of at least 100 similar websites.[7] Most are simply domain alternatives. However, some offer additional features. NotifyURL.com sends an email when the link is first visited. SnipURL.com introduces social bookmarking features such as usernames and RSS feeds. DwarfURL.com generates statistics. Adjix.com and Linkbee.com are ad-supported models of URL shorteners that share the revenue with their users.[8]

[edit] TinyURL-whacking

The TinyURL method of allocating shorter web addresses has inspired an action known as TinyURL-whacking. Random letters and numbers can be placed after the first forward slash in an attempt to hit interesting sites without knowing in advance what they will be.[9][10][11]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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